You Can't Learn Passion

Posted by James McKnight on

Hurly Burly - the 2016 downhill yearbook - was adorned with hundreds of mind-blowing images by Sebastian Schieck, Sven Martin and Duncan Philpott. For 2017 Duncan has stepped away from the DH World Cup though, so we have filled his spot with none other than Boris 'Maddog' Beyer, a snapper who has been going from strength to strength as he racks up seasons following the WC circuit. It hasn't always been glitz and glamour and the highlife of a full-time freelancer for Boris though (ahem, perhaps we have misrepresented the freelance lifestyle somewhat there). In his feature for Hurly Burly, Boris recounted the path of a photographer on the up.

Welcome to the fold Boris, and we look forward to seeing your stunning images in our 2017 yearbook.

You Can't Learn Passion

An extract from Hurly Burly

Words and photo by Boris ‘Maddog’ Beyer

Here I am, it’s a sunny but cold day in November and instead of riding my bike, I’m sitting in front of my Computer typing these words. What to write about, where to start and my first real story in English?

Maybe you should know that I’m Boris, some kind of weird and crazy passionate MTB editor and photographer working for a German MTB magazine, Mountainbike Rider.

When I started working for the mag back in 2010 I got a list of photographers to contact if I needed any photos from World Cups. I picked Sven Martin out of the list and produced my first interview using his pictures. Some months later I thought it was time to visit my first World Cup as an editor, so I asked my boss if I could use our company car and the next day I was on my way to the third World Cup round of the 2011 season in Leogang, Austria.

I had no money, no accommodation and actually no f*ing idea what I was really doing. That how my chaotic freestyle road-triping started. I met a German racer who offered me a sofa so I din’t have to sleep in the car. The next day I felt like a kid at Christmas! Somehow I managed to sneak into the gondola and made it to the top of the course, for sure without media accreditation. At this point I had no idea what it really meant to work at a World Cup. Actually, I was way too excited and not cool enough to hide my excitement. That weekend was pretty intense. I managed to get some pics, Aaron Gwin won the Race by 2.1 seconds, I got very drunk, passed out and had to drive back to Germany with a massive hangover. I loved it!

I also met Sven for the first time in person, it was just a quick hello and I recognised that he was super busy and absolutely in his zone like a racer before his run. It clearly wasn’t just a job for him, he was passionate and kind of obsessed, in a good way. I was impressed and had the idea to produce a story about him at the last World Cup Round of 2011 in Val di Sole. And so again I was on my way to another country with no money or accommodation. But this time I had to sleep outside on a beanbag. I didn’t care because I was super stoked to be there.

The story, One Man Army, wasn´t just about the work next to the track but also the time in the pits, the late nights in the media room or climbing the roof at midnight to steal the internet cable, and also Sven’s influence on riders. So many riders asked him for line choices or needed some good motivating words. He obviously wasn´t just a photographer, he was part of the scene.

On finals day Sven surprised me, asking if I wanted to help him shooting the race instead of taking pics of him shooting the race. For sure! He gave me a spare camera with massive 300mm lens. I was super nervous and felt the adrenaline pumping through my veins. With no time to get used of the camera and the fixed lens, I had one chance only to get a picture of the final run of each rider. Gwin got the fifth win of his 2011 season and clearly took the overall. It was amazing; not just because of shooting the race, but also the unreal feeling to be so close to the track and to see the guys pushing the limits in their race runs, and the special atmosphere in the finish area and later in the pits. I loved every single second of that weekend and was totally hooked.

In 2012 I tried everything to make it at least to the European World Cups, it became like a drug and felt weird and frustrating to watch the overseas races online. All I wanted was to lie next to the track in the mud, dust or wet grass and see the riders in action. I wanted to feel the adrenaline again and again. I wanted to be there when the top riders crossed the finish line turning their heads to see if they got a green or red light. I wanted to be there to see them pushing the limits, to see their crazy lines, to see them winning or losing.

I spent days and nights in airports (because of the cheap flights), travelled hours squashed in the back of cars, slept on floors, sofas or trailers in the pits and had just the food from the media rooms, which was mostly shit. I was there when Loic Bruni won his first Junior World Champ title in Leogang and I still have our first selfie on my phone. I was there when Greg Minnaar beat Gee Atherton by 0.58 seconds and won his second Title. I was there when Peaty celebrated his 20th World Champs and again passed out and woke up in the back of the Schwalbe trailer the next morning (with a penis drawing on my face). And I partied with Stevie Smith after he won the World Cup finals in Norway. Those are just a couple of special memories, bur every second was unforgettable.

Luckily I got the opportunity to travel the three following seasons (2013-2015) with the Bulls DH Gravity Team, which was managed by our magazine, as a team photographer. I didn’t got paid extra for it, but who cares? A dream came true and as a bonus I had real breakfast and dinner and I didn’t have to sleep on the floor. To be honest, thinking back it’s hard to separate the seasons, races and results. It all feels like one hell of a time with an unreal amount of funny, crazy and also exhausting memories.

I became a part of the World Cup scene and made friends from all over the world – riders, mechanics, team managers, media guys, track builders and race organisers. The pits became my second home. I love the feeling to arrive early at the races, to see how the pits and bikes are built up, to walk around and say hello to everybody, to hear their travel, off-season, or party stories. It really is like a big family you travel the world with. We share so many experiences, adventures and also problems together.

Over time most people came to know me as ‘the crazy German’, and later Sam Dale gave me the name ‘Maddogboris’. I’ve visited some of the guys in their home countries and they have visited me in Germany. One of the fastest guys out there was crying on my shoulder after he punctured in his race run. My jersey and #finishlineselfie collection gets bigger and bigger, I got my first Pithaircut by Brook MacDonald and my first Pittattoo by Steve Peat, Tahnée Seagrave and Micayla Gatto. And instead of passing out at the after race parties anymore, I now spend hours in the media room working. But not to forget my problems with the UCI because of crashing the live stream two times to get my #finishlineselfies or not wearing my media bib properly. [Editor’s note: So that’s who’s to blame!]

I work my ass of to get the best shots possible, start the days at 6.30am and go to bed at 1am. I spend hours in the rain, dust, sun, fog or heat, (nearly) always super stoked and with a big smile on my face. All the travelling and countless hours of hard work became even more special with Sven, Duncan Philpott, Joe Bowman, Mono Bartlett, Matt Delorme, Sebastian Schieck, Dan Heran and Rob and John Parkin, and all the riders of course. Not sure if I would love the Job so much and would still do it, if they weren’t a massive part of it.

It’s not just a job, and 2016 showed me that this bunch of people from different countries, backgrounds, lifestyles and ages are more than just colleagues and acquaintances, they are friends. After three years with the Bulls Team, in 2016 I was back on my own again. No more paid fights, hotels, food or rental cars. At the beginning of the season I wasn’t sure if I’d make it to all the races, but of course as the season progressed I just had to be there, it couldn’t be missed. With the help of the aforementioned crew and charitable riders now donating more than just floor space in their trailers (but often that too), I was able to follow the entire season and witness first-hand the drama and excitement along the way, for love, not money. 

Buy Hurly Burly - the 2016 downhill yearbook - now. Shipped worldwide.

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