Shooting The Mountain Bike World Championships
This year the Mountain Bike World Championships returned to Mont-Sainte-Anne, Quebec. Many riders consider MSA to be the crown jewel of the World Cup circuit and always a fitting place to hold World Champs. I had to miss the race there last season but this year marks my 13th year attending the races there.
I arrived early-on in the week to get settled and make the most of the event. Downhill practice was limited to only a few hours a day so shooting opportunities were slim. In addition to my regular kit, I brought a NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8 with me as well as a 1.4 teleconverter. My plan was to shoot in the open during the race and in the woods during practice. I ended up hauling the 400mm up and down the hill on the first day and, although it just about killed me, I was really happy with the shots I got. Probably my favorites from the event. While others have shot the same locations before, this focal length gave me options others may not have had. It also allowed me to stand in the shade on the 44 degree days.
The first few days of practice were so dry the track was covered in fine dust. It made shooting very challenging and had it not been for the slight breeze on the hill, many of us may have been skunked. We were all dreading the top dogs rolling down in trains. If the rider you were waiting for wasn’t the first guy down, forget about it!
The rain eventually came, as it always does at MSA. Some were happy to see the track slow down a bit while others missed the wide open speeds from earlier in the week. I shot in a few different spots with both strobes and available light. Looking back, I probably should have just gone 100% ambient but old habits die hard and I don’t like having a rider’s face in shadow, even if it means soaking in all the lush scenery.
For the race, I decided to head up top for junior men and women then make my way down to the finish line for elites. I found a spot I really liked and would have been content to shoot the whole race there but I knew I needed some of the finish line action. I used my 70-200mm f/2.8 up top and added the 400mm for the bottom to get a four shot system going. I had the 400mm mounted on my D3 and the 70-200mm on my D700. I picked up the riders coming off the last ramp out of the woods and in the corner with the 400mm. I then spun around and caught them as they hit the final jump and when they crossed the finish line with the 70-200mm . This was the first time I used my D700 for action and I was really impressed. The shots match my D3 perfectly and with the grip the FPS are more than enough. It’s the perfect, lightweight D3 backup.
I have an 8 month old daughter, which is the apple of my eye right now, so I’ve been staying local and shooting in Ontario most of the year. It was great to get out and shoot at the World Cup level again. The best part of any of these things though is always the people. It was really great to catch up with everyone and see lots of old, familiar faces. I had a great time at the event.
I can’t post my top shots, as I am submitting them to a few select mags, but hope you enjoyed these in the meantime.