THE ENIGMA

In the star-stud­ded uni­verse of grav­ity rac­ing, few, if any, have shined as brightly as Sam Hill.

Bike (USA) - - Start - BY BRICE MIN­NIGH PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY SVEN MARTIN

While the down­hill rac­ing world has seen no short­age of su­per­stars—gi­ants like Ni­co­las Vouil­loz, Greg Min­naar and peren­nial crowd-pleaser, Steve Peat— ar­guably no racer since John To­mac has in­stilled a more last­ing rev­er­ence among grav­ity fa­nat­ics than Hill.

Though Min­naar boasts more World Cup vic­to­ries than any­one, and Peaty’s larger-than-life per­sona has for­ever cap­tured our hearts, Hill’s un­ri­valed mas­tery of tech­ni­cal ter­rain and un­for­get­tably ex­plo­sive per­for­mances have seared them­selves into our col­lec­tive psy­che, at times eclips­ing the oth­er­wise phe­nom­e­nal feats of his peers. In his most bril­liant mo­ments, Hill is a su­per­nova whose blind­ing rays ex­tend far be­yond his own gal­axy.

“There’s no other racer in the world like Sam Hill,” says pho­tog­ra­pher Sven Martin, who has doc­u­mented Hill’s me­te­oric tra­jec­tory from his days as a ju­nior in the early 2000s to his com­plete dom­i­nance of the En­duro World Se­ries over the last two years. “When you’re ac­tu­ally there in per­son and see­ing what he’s ac­tu­ally do­ing, where he’s ac­tu­ally do­ing it—and the speed at which he’s do­ing it—it’s hard to be­lieve.”

Over the course of his ca­reer, the quiet Aus­tralian has be­come known as the man to beat on the world’s most pre­cip­i­tous, most tech­ni­cally de­mand­ing cour­ses—and in the most un­for­giv­ing weather con­di­tions. The steep­est chutes, the chunki­est rock gar­dens, the most men­ac­ing root sec­tions: All are his to con­quer, es­pe­cially in the rain, mud and greasi­ness that have many other rac­ers grap­pling to keep their bikes up­right.

These are the times when Hill shows his true artistry, turn­ing the most treach­er­ous tracks into his per­sonal can­vasses, draw­ing dar­ing lines down them that oth­ers could scarcely imag­ine.

“When the ter­rain is su­per dif­fi­cult, he’s bet­ter than any­body else in the world,” says Nigel Page, team man­ager for Chain Re­ac­tion Cy­cles/Mavic, who has worked closely with Hill since he signed with Nuke­proof in De­cem­ber 2012. “On tracks that are so steep, so tech­ni­cally chal­leng­ing that even the top riders are strug­gling, Sam just comes into his own. The harder a track is, the more con­fi­dent and pumped he is to ride.

“He just has this be­lief in him­self and his abil­ity to turn the bike wher­ever he

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