Landing a World Cup podium takes focus, skill, speed and determination—this is known. But racing successfully at the sport’s highest level often comes down to many small moments that are overshadowed by big ones. This image documents a micro-moment building to a winning result. It was the Wednesday before track walk at Fort William’s World Cup, and Loïc Bruni still didn’t know if he’d be able to race without the support of a hard brace. Bruni, the current world champion, had dislocated his elbow during practice at the Loŝinj, Croatia, World Cup, forcing him to the sidelines for the season opener.
Photographer Sven Martin had arrived at Fort William a day early, finding Bruni in Specialized’s race truck with the team physio. The two were discussing a taping strategy for Bruni to assess whether it afforded him a better balance of mobility and stability than the bulky brace.
Bruni ended up using the tape in the finals later that week, and raced his way back on the podium, landing in 5th place.
This moment may not be as flashy as the high-action of Bruni’s run or the Champagne spray later on, but it helps tell the true story of preparation behind a podium. While shots of Bruni celebrating his result at Fort William are aplenty, those detailing the tiny steps it took to get there are not.
Martin’s ability to capture the human side of racing stems from trust he’s built with athletes over years of shooting World Cups.
“Injuries and athletes, the interpersonal, private moments like that … the rapport with the riders over the years allows you in for those moments,” Martin says.