Hillclimb Worlds: An Alexis Ryan Joint

What happens when you hand a camera to a pro bike racer and ask her to be a photographer for a day?

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How does Alexis Ryan of Canyon//SRAM relax during her short off season? Go to a bike race, of course! Fresh off a ride at the Elite Women’s World Championship, and a few short weeks before heading back to Europe for Canyon//SRAM training camp and a long season based out of Girona, Spain, we spotted Alexis at the start line of the Hillclimb World Championship in Santa Barbara, California. Alexis wasn’t there to ride, she was there to shoot photos, with her friend and uber-talented shooter Jeff Clark. 

Words: Ben Edwards / Images: Alexis Ryan

We knew Alexis was a creative person. She worked with Canyon, writing a script and narrating a film about what riding means to her. You can watch it here. But images? Alexis and Jeff shared some of the images she captured on the day. Hillclimb Worlds is no UCI event, it’s in its first year, run by Phil Gaimon – who would win the pro men’s race in a battle with Peter Stetina – and featured around 200 riders in multiple categories. A few were there to really race, but most seemed to be there for the experience, to enjoy a day out on the road with like minded people rather than pull on some unsanctioned rainbow stripes.

Hey Alexis, can’t you read the sign! Alexis setting up for a shot on Gibraltar’s iconic ‘No Shooting’ switchback. Image: Jeff Clark

The race began Chase Palm Park on Cabrillo Boulevard in the morning fog with 5miles of neutral roll-out to the base of Gibraltar, where the 6.1miles of racing up Gibraltar began. Alexis joked that there was no way we’d find her racing up Gibraltar, and while at just 24 she’s carved out quite a reputation as a classics rider and sprinter, she did win the Mountain Classification at the Holland Ladies Tour in 2017. What’s that? No mountains in Holland? Well, we can neither confirm nor deny that. What we do know is that Alexis is coming off what might be her best season with wins at Drentse Acht van Westerveld in the Netherlands and a stage win at Le Tour de l’Ardeche in France. Alexis also got second at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in Belgium and fifth at the Amstel Gold Race in the Netherlands. With her fourth classics season with Canyon // SRAM coming up, it seems only a matter of time before Alexi notches a truly monumental win. To hear more from Alexis about racing check out our interview with her from last season right here. 

Alexis found a friendly face at the start, her Canyon//SRAM teammate Leajh Thorvilson, who would end up third on the day. One look at the gallery above and you can see that Alexis shot a lot more than just the race. While your typical race photographer will work off of almost a check list – get the favorites, few snaps of the early break, winning move, finish line shot, press room to upload and done – Alexis shot whatever caught her fancy, from the riders to the fans or even other photographers. We chatted with her briefly to ask about her first race day shoot and why she decided to leave the bike at home for the day and grab a camera.

PELOTON: Have you had interest in photography for a while?
RYAN: Other than snapping pictures on my phone of the beautiful places I travel, I haven’t taken much interest in photography. Not that I don’t appreciate and admire great photography/photographers, but it wasn’t on my radar. Jeff Clark invited me up for the day and handed me a camera, said, “Point and shoot!” It wasn’t my idea to seek out another expensive hobby, but I think that’s what I’ve just done!

PELOTON: First time shooting from a moto? Well, scooter!
RYAN:I’ve taken a few iPhone photos from the back of a scooter, but nothing with a camera that costs more than my road bike!

PELOTON: We know you’re a writer, but any other visual outlets to your creativity?
RYAN:Writing is my only creative outlet at the moment. I was recently introduced to Poi (a dance originating with the Māori people of New Zealand), which I assume is considered a performance art. (ED: It is!)

PELOTON: Many cyclists seem to have a real creative streak we sometime don’t see in other sports, how does creativity help you compete? Does it, or is just to get away?
RYAN: Creativity is a stress reliever to most sports people. We tend to be perfectionists, but things don’t go our way a lot of the time and it helps to have an outlet for that angst.

PELOTON: Now that you’ve shot an event on a moto, how does it make you feel about all the photographers you see out at the big races darting around the peloton as you’re riding?
RYAN: Mad respect to motorcycle photographers! Looking for the perfect shot, staying completely focused, and trying not to fall off into a peloton of cyclists is hairy business.

PELOTON: Did you have a plan to your shoot at Hillclimb Worlds, or did you just wing it?
RYAN: That shoot was on the wings of a peregrine falcon. No plan, only animal instinct.

To learn more about Alexis you can follow her on instagram @alexismryan or check out wmncycling.com

To find out more about Hillclimb Worlds head to hillclimbworlds.com. 

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