A Wild Ride Seen Through a Lens

August 20, 2015

A man takes an incredible spill during the 1995 Great Cycle in Randolph. (Herald File / Bob Eddy)

In the 1990s, Randolph was home to several annual mountain bike races. These were extremely popular and attracted enthusiasts from all over. For two or three years the Green Mountain Stock Farm hosted the event.

A long summer weekend was given over to field camping, evenings of rock music, and rigorous biking on woodland trails throughout the day.

In July 1995, we ran this photograph as the key image in a fullpage layout on the first page of The Herald’s second section.

What’s Going On

How does this image read for you? I find it initially confusing. What is really going on here? It is such a dark scene; save for a couple splashes of white, a study in grays and black.

Then we see the bike and the rider, but everything is mixed up. In bright white we see wheel spokes, a shirt, and a band across the helmet. One foot and hand are planted on the ground. There is the blur of a hand and arm. A leg rises in the back.

The front wheel looks a mess. The bike seat is aimed like an arrow down into the mud, while the rear wheel rises straight up, its verticality emphasized by the tree trunk at the back.

The Great Cycle

A bicycle’s progress is comprised of many hundreds and thousands of revolutions. As the legs pump, the crank turns repeatedly, and the wheels, in turn, spin and spin, laying their circumference repeatedly to the ground as the entire enterprise, bike and rider, surges forward.

Here, we witness the greatest and most spectacular cycle of all. Wheels stilled from turning, the crankshaft too, we find the whole kit and caboodle cycling! Rider and bike are arcing now, airborne in one great revolution.

This is a spectacular moment, and an alarming shot, for we cannot help but imagine the next moment, and then the next, as this fellow continues to spin out of control toward an inevitable end. We anticipate that end as we come to understand what is happening here. And it isn’t pretty.

“Look out! Tuck your chin,” we want to shout, as this poor soul tumbles toward us.

In The End

Covered in mud, Beth Whalen flashes a smile. (Herald File / Bob Eddy) I wish I could tell you this fellow’s name, but it’s probably best that I can’t, for he was up and off, back into the race an instant after this image was taken. At the end of the day he was lost in the crush of the crowd.

So, as difficult as this image is to view, it all turned out fine.

In the layout for the paper, this was by far the largest photograph. It provided the adrenalin— the visual kick to put the reader in the moment.

The happy ending was found in another series of four images which ended in the spectacular smile on Beth Whalen’s face you see here.

She, who taught French at RUHS, also took a spectacular header, which I captured in a quick burst of three shots. Her smile was the perfect coda to the layout.

Is It Luck?

I am often asked how I was able to get a particular photograph. This is one of those images.

On the day before the race, I rode the course, scouting locations. At this spot I came over the brow of a hill to find a quick drop to a rain-soaked, boggy trail. I almost went over myself. Perfect.

On race day I placed myself at the bottom of the gully, a bit further down the trail, and waited. Quite frankly, I was amazed by the agility with which most riders finessed this pitfall. No one was hurt. I did get some spectacular images, however!

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