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