Combining my passions for cycling, writing and photography should, retrospectively thinking, have been an obvious career choice for me. I’m not quite sure what thought processes somehow blinded me from seeing this. I think perhaps it didn’t strike me as a proper job. Far too much like a hobby. However, after my little foray into the undergrowth in Cyprus in February I started writing this blog, and from that humble beginning I am now still at a humble beginning, just slightly further along.
Here is my humble beginning so far…
I started what I now hope will become my career – though I didn’t know it then – by accepting a invitation from Matt and Graham of the Mud Sweat and Gears Eastern MTB Series to write up a report from their races. From here I started writing for xcracer.com (thank you Bruce for suggesting I could be the person xcracer were looking for!), reporting on the British National MTB Series. Writing the reports for these events made the penny drop. I could be in an environment I love, satisfying my artistic tendencies with photography and keeping my inner geek content by writing.
I took what felt like a hefty leap of faith and asked to join my boyfriend and his parents at the opening two rounds of the 2013 XC World Cup. I didn’t have any work secured as it was all rather last minute but I felt that now was the time to focus and commit to this career.
I (read Dad) bought a new camera and I packed it into a suitcase which unashamedly tested the limits of Ryanair’s baggage restrictions and headed off in search of a delightful Belgian and international stardom.
I found the Belgian easily enough, Eindhoven airport is roughly the size of a football pitch (that’s how size is measured, right? That and comparisons with the size of Wales), and stardom is overrated anyway…
One night in Belgium, a few emails and some swift administration resulted in press accreditation for both Albstadt and Nove Mesto, reporting for XCRacer. So, with the promise of the all-important lanyard and laminated paper to waggle at security folk, I jumped aboard the De Backer mobile with Patrick, Sonja and Jonas and we set off toward Germany.
Entry to the Press Room in Albstadt gave me access to the internet, start lists, results a pamphlet of information about the history of MTB racing in the town and, most excitingly, an impressive array of cakes and a shit tonne of fizzy apple juice in bottles too big for me to handle. My hands were simply not big enough to be able to hold and tip the bottle one-handed, and two-handed drinking makes you look three years old. Cue juicy dribble down my t-shirts. Yes, shirts, it happened more than once.
Thankfully the actual work progressed more smoothly. The eliminator race on Friday evening was a great opportunity to catch up with riders and friends and gauge how people were feeling for the beginning of the World Cup season. The sunshine and beautiful woodland made for some nice shots on Saturday, and I managed to try a few new approaches and different ideas on Sunday to produce some photos that I don’t think anyone will have got. That’s a big thing for me, producing something unique, a little arty, not just the standard ‘person on a bike’ shot. After each race had finished I tried to look busy and important in the Press Room for a while, and then trotted back up the hill to where the motorhome was parked up. That hillside was brutal, my calf muscles were having a hard time and air reached parts of my lungs that had been dormant since February, and I was only trying not to be late for dinner, not racing a World Cup!
Onto to Czech Republic and a completely different set-up. The venue is a purpose-built sporting arena and thus there are media rooms right next to the start and close to the camping. Me and my little legs were very thankful. This Press Room was the scene of me receiving my first ever photo bib, a quietly exciting and rather proud moment which I celebrated with a surreptitious fist clench and a whatsapp message to Muma, Imo and Winton.
Now I had my photo bib I was in the club. The ‘check out my lens’ club. I’m fairly sure lens size doesn’t have a direct positive correlation to penis size, but still I was glad I am female and was therefore free from judgement. Where there was absolutely no regard for size was with the bibs themselves. Whilst Armin the giant German wore his akin to a sportsbra (which he probably needed), I was sporting mine like a tent! The photo bib meant I could get into the photo zones on course and get up close to the action on the technical features. This was pretty cool, and I got some nice shots, but they were the same shots that every other photographer was taking. As such I still did a lot of my normal ducking and diving about the place, popping up out of the trees and laying amongst the ferns to try and capture something a little different from the norm. I did get in on some finish line action for the final of the eliminator though to see Kenta cross the line with his hands aloft. I’m pretty sure seeing a friend win and being there to give them a big congratulatory hug beats having a twelve inch lens! Even better than that was watching Jonas ride from 95th on the grid to finish 37th in only his second elite World Cup. On looking through my photos it became apparent that my main focus had been Jonas’ race; there were three photos of him for every one of anyone else!
After a couple of weekends off I was all set to fly out and join Jonas for a bit of a holiday when, to cut a long story short, a day later I found myself on a plane to Geneva to work. Following a right girly flap concerning the immediacy of this job, knowing nothing about what I was doing, having never done anything like it before, and having to change my plans with Jonas and his family and for Imogen’s birthday, I decided working for Pinkbike.com at a Mavic enduro product launch was kinda cool. I was, to be perfectly honest, absolutely bricking it, but I was well looked after by the lovely folk from Mavic, rode some awesome trails in the La Clusaz area of the French Alps with other journalists and gained incredible experience. I am still sad I missed Imo’s eighteenth birthday, I will never get that back, but given that she essentially kicked my sorry, panicking arse out of the door I think it was the right thing to do.
So my jounalistic CV is slowly building up and I feel that doors are opening, even if they are small and few and far between at the moment. Hopefully more work will come my way – or rather I will search it out – and then I can travel with Imogen and Jonas to support them pursuing their dreams whilst being able to work and make a career for myself too.
This journo lark is definitely not making me rich, but it is making me happy.
Here are a few shots from my adventures…
Thanks to xcracer; Mum, Dad and Imo; Jonas, Patrick and Sonja; Newdales Cycles for their support of Imo and everyone who has given me such lovely feedback on my work.