We feature “The Question” in the magazine each month and thought it’d be good to hear some of your thoughts and comments on the matter. Have a read of what photographers Mr Behr, Mr Waugh and Mr Lorence think then add your tuppence.
THE QUESTION #129
Words by Mike Rose
WHO DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST TALENTED BIKE RIDER EVER?
Some riders have it, and some riders don’t. What we are talking about here is natural skill, an ability to ride a mountain bike with real style and finesse. A rider who can make the hardest things look easy and the simplest things look amazing.
As photographers the three people here have all worked with some of the greatest bike riders on the planet, but who do they think is the most talented mountain bike rider ever?
That’s a really tricky question. As a photographer I’ve worked with most of the most talented riders on the planet; it’s difficult to choose because each has their own thing that they’re best at. But some do stand out as all–rounders and superb bike–men, for want of a better expression. In the early days people like Dave Hemming and Jason McRoy were probably the guys who impressed me the most, always looking perfectly in control, even when they weren’t. Warner and Peaty pushed it a bit further, with Will Longden and Tim Ponting in that same ‘all–round amazing’ bracket at the same time. Fabien Barel definitely has that certain something too. Gee Atherton has raised the bar even higher. He’s probably about as close as I can think of to being perfect on a bike in a lot of ways. But I’ve also worked with some incredible dirt jumpers, freeriders and slopestylers. It’s hard not to be in awe of those guys. And trials riders: Martyn Ashton and especially Chris Akrigg have always pushed the envelope. If you’ve ever seen Chris doing his brakeless stuff you’ll know what I mean. Incredible. So hard to pick one, but if pushed, I’d have to say that the most talented mountain biker ever is…the next one who makes me think ‘yes!’ when I see that special shot on the back of the camera.
Asking me to name the most talented mountain bike rider is really taking the piss. I mean you might as well ask me what my favourite Bowie album is…it changes by the month, by the day, the hour. My vintage might suggest I would plump for John Tomac or his Euro nemesis Thomas Frischknecht. They were in my thoughts, and let’s not forget Frischi has won downhill races the same as Tomes won XC contests. Or perhaps John Stamsted, the endurance riding nutcase who was putting it all on the line before it became fashionable to induce hallucinations from merely riding a bicycle.
Nope, I’m fast forwarding the years a tad and going for Cedric Gracia. France has produced so many amazing mountain bikers and this man is perhaps the most talented of them all. Only an XC test between him and Julien Absalon would settle that one. Gracia has won World Cups, slalom, 4X and has featured in some of the best sections in MTB films. His background from BMX and skiing has given him an innate balance and control that is a pleasure to watch. Of course, he also brings his personality to the table, which along with his flamboyance has always brought sponsors to the table. And that his a talent too… But please, don’t ask me a question as tough as this again!
I’m inspired by mountain bikers that mountain bike. Riders that want to hammer, and take the sport for all it has to offer. I have been fortunate in my photographic career to work with the world’s best in all genres of our sport. Jonny Tomac still stands out for me as the most talented. It wasn’t just his downhill prowess or his incredible XC endurance, but his talent as a technical climber. Strength, endurance and insane physical coordination combine to make him capable of crazy uphill manoeuvres that leave the whole pack in awe.