About two months ago, Andreu and Lluis Lacondeguy asked me to shoot photos at their own FEST event in Spain called Laconfest. Unfortunately, due to building and weather issues they had to cancel it. But it didn’t end there. Andreu teamed up with Nico Vink and they both spent a week building an insane course in the South of France, at the amazing Royal Hills to create the Royalfest.
We kept it secret. Until now.
It was my first time at a FEST Series event. I haven’t seen in person the other courses that have been built, but this one was next level. Nico built a super technical, high-speed downhill track with +30ft. (+9m) jumps in between that lead you to a 65ft. (20m) ender. Videos or photos don’t do any justice of what these guys are actually riding. You have to watch it by yourself to believe it, and I guess that’s the same for Rampage or any kind of event this huge.
Going to an event like that with only a cheap film camera and a couple rolls was definitely a challenge for me. I spent 6 days hanging out at the Royal Hills. The weather and light wasn’t the best for shooting. Clouds, wind and even rain made it harder for me to shoot and try to get proper photos. Seeing how the weather was being, I decided to finish off a Portra 400 and load a T-Max 400 so at least the shadows would look better in black and white.
We woke up at 6 a.m. every day hoping to get a good session down with no wind or rain. Above these lines there are two photos that I took when Andreu, KJ and Trond were testing the small line after a heavy rain from the night before. It was sunny and some parts of the course had dried up but others were still a little bit muddy and sticky.
Although, that didn’t stop the boys to send it on the hip line, as you can see below Andreu being followed by Nico at the last 62ft. (19m) jump.
Royal Hills is the place to be if you are a Motocross or FMX rider, and Guilles De Jong is no stranger there. He is one of the most stylish European FMX riders and when he is not riding and touring the world with the Red Bull X-Fighters crew, he enjoys what this place has to offer. As soon as the riding sessions finished, Andreu usually picked up his freshly built FEST FMX bike and joined him to ride some huge moto Freeride jumps.
This is Andreu on a 2-stroke bike hitting a 115ft. (35m) jump in front of us for the first time. Then after a couple more runs he did a bunch of supermans and japan-airs. That’s just an average session for him.
Below you can see Guilles getting sideways so effortlessly on his 4-stroke Kawasaki.
The following photos were taken the day before I left.
Sorge made the trip all the way down from Nelson, BC to the South of France to ride and hang out with the FEST Series crew. Here you can see him whipping his new big bike on the main line, alone above and accompanied by everyone below.
Norwegian freerider and living legend Trond Hansen showed up the last days of the fest to get some riding going with the crew. Here Makken, Lluis and Nico check out the footage that he got from his GoPro camera after a few runs down the hill.
Lluis sprained his ankle the day before coming to Royal Hills at a bikepark opening and got a cast on for the rest of the week. Makken did a couple runs on the hip line but then overshot a jump at the top of the line and his left crank arm snapped. There were no spare parts for him, and no bikeshop around had downhill cranks so he had to chill and watch the boys sending it. Also, Nick Pescetto was recovering from a sprained knee so he came with his camera and filmed the madness.
This is one of my favorite photos that I took there, and the fact that Trond is the rider makes it even better.
The man behind Royalfest and Loosefest, Nico Vink. Always listening to heavy metal in his van and going fast and sideways on his bike.
You never know when Andreu is going to throw down so you better be ready at anytime. Luckily, I managed to get a photo of the only superman that he did that day.
I was very fortunate to be there. I had the opportunity to see in first hand what these guys are doing for the sport and what they believe. They stay true to their beliefs and are not going to do what the industry says that it’s better or cooler, just like Aggy said: “It’s up to us to fight for Freeride when the rest of the industry is all about Enduro.”
Thanks again Nico, Andreu and everyone involved for having me, see you in hell.
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Photos + Words by Héctor Saura
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