The excitement was starting to build as the wheels lifted off the ground on BA170 from London’s Heathrow airport to Zurich en route to Lenzerheide in the south of Switzerland. The destination was the venue for the 2018 UCI mountain bike world championships, the biggest race of the year on the DH calendar.
After a short flight I found myself on one of the most spectacular train journeys I have ever taken as the double decker train snaked it’s way through the beautiful Swiss countryside.
The incredible train journey ended at the city of Chur where I was met by the ever smiling Roger Vieira, who would be one of the two riders I would be shooting for over the next 5 days. After picking up his brother Douglas, we were off to the race village for the track walk for the start of what would be a very emotional race for the young brothers.
Track walk completed and I had wanted to get some shots of the new bikes that the boys would be riding. Polygon had provided the new XQUARONE DH9 and, as this is the world championships where riders race for their country, the new bike was decked out in custom Brazilian colours for the week.
Thursday was first practice of the week and, as well as custom bikes, the boys were keen to put on their new Brazil kit and get onto the track.
Practice runs finished and Roger and Douglas were happy with how they were performing on track with both of them enjoying the dry and dusty conditions.
And then Friday morning arrived, where we woke to a very wet and muddy track that would change the direction of the world champs for Roger.
The low cloud and cool conditions meant that the track would stay wet and slippy for morning practice.
The afternoon had brought the sunshine back just in time for the Brazilian’s qualifying runs.
Qualifying runs over and the boys faced a long and nervous wait to see where they would place for Sunday’s final.
As the last riders were finishing their runs it was clear to see that unfortunately Roger hadn’t made the cut to get through to the finals. A difficult run saw him lose time in one of the rock gardens and never managed to recover. To finish an agonising few seconds just outside the top 80 left Roger heartbroken.
Although Douglas had also had a run that included a few mistakes, he managed to get through in 76th place and was relieved to had made it into his first ever worlds finals.
An understandably upset Roger congratulated his brother and left to prepare his bike for the whip off competition that was happening nearby that evening. We made our way to the venue as the sun was setting. The riders faced a very steep run in that led to a huge jump that would test every rider.
After several tentative runs up to the jump Roger was soon launching himself skywards. Judging was by the one and only Steve Peat and when the final 20 places were announced, Roger was in. As the finals progressed there were some incredible moves going down and Roger finished just outside the top slots to finish the day with a smile.
Saturday was quite a chilled day with only a couple of hours practice for Douglas in the morning, the sun was back and here to stay until race day.
Douglas finished practice full of confidence for the next day’s finals so all that was left to do was last minute bike tweaks as I took time out to enjoy the sights and sounds that made up this incredible event.
And then it was race day. The sun shone brightly again and the nerves were in full flow for both rider and photographer.
Douglas was 16th down and it was an anxious time waiting at the bottom watching the live feed. The noise of the crowds all around was incredible and the atmosphere was like nothing else.
A few small mistakes including a crash off the bike saw Douglas finish in an ultimately disappointing 71st overall. Even though he managed to shave 10 seconds off his qualifying time it wasn’t the position he was looking for.
We left Lenzerheide with Roger and Douglas vowing to work harder than ever over the winter and to come back stronger for 2019.