Redbull Hardline 2016
Another year, another line up of world class riders and another day watching Dan Atherton’s wild creation be tamed by the best in the business. I now look forward to this event each year and often convince friends and followers to make the effort to see it, whether they like mountain biking or not.
For me this course is as much about watching these riders push themselves to the very limit of whats capable on a mountain bike as it is to actually walk the course and try to place myself into the mind of the creator. Like many of us, I have followed the Atherton’s since the early days when they would release their video diaries on Youtube. At the time I was just a ‘mountain biker’ and photography was just a byproduct of my hobbies, preferring to race myself and immerse myself in magazines and videos as a fan. Although much hasn’t changed, my photography has. Along with it how I view events, I now appreciate and understand the effort that goes into them including all the creativity and hard work it takes to pull a successful race off.
Dan is fast becoming one of the most well documented trail builders in Britain, videos and social media clips are popping up everywhere and his transition from a multi discipline competitor to world renowned shovel coordinator has been one of great success. One thing is certain, the little known Dyfi Valley is fast becoming a much talked about mountain biking nirvana. Hold your ear to the wind and great things can be heard through the trees. Whisperings of how Dan and the Dyfi crew are manipulating the hallowed Welsh turf into trails that mountain bikers and videographers could only dream off.
When Dan left the world cup circuit it was obvious that he had bigger things on his mind and as exciting as this was I am sure many were sad to see him leave. I have always felt that on a bike he possessed a fluidity to his riding that many could only wish for and when he gave up world cup racing I often wondered what would happen to him and the Atherton brand. As it turns out the Atherton brand is still strong and Dan’s new direction can only be a good thing for them and one of great excitement for the mountain biking world.
With Redbull and Jeep on board the social media hype ramps up in the days leading to the event. Images and video clips of last minute preparations and practise runs start to emerge, along with them there is usually a tally of broken riders that have succumb to the sheer scale and danger that this course holds. Although this year numbers were down on previous and hopes were high for a great weekend of racing.
The race day morning usually consists of some practise runs and then seeding runs for the afternoons race, although this isn’t always the format. Weather and the number of riders left to compete often shape the days format, it almost feels like the mountain calls the shots and decides how race day will run.
The Hardline course is gigantic, actually its almost insane, here the small features would shadow those that many of us would think twice about at a trail centre or bike park. As for the larger ones…
Although the course hasn’t deviated much from last years, the main features seem to have been tweaked and those that made you hold your breath as the riders approached were somehow looking more menacing than ever.
One thing that always grabs my attention is how Dan has made the course snake its way down the mountain side seamlessly using natural features to enhance your visual integration with the race. Old walls, streams, woodland and natural rock features all help pull together a run that is truly world class.
As you near the lower part of the course you can start to see more of Dan’s man made creations. Some of which are used to traverse over what would seem like an impossible route whilst others are put there I am sure just for the spectators pleasure.
As you near the arena a real sense of hype can be felt with the crowds thickening for the final run, couple that with the familiar voice of Rob Warner echoing in the background and its all set up for a great run to the finish line.
Once again it was a great event and I already look forward to 2017