WHEN FAYETTEVILLE-BASED photographer Connor Cockrell was growing up in Northwest Arkansas, the mountain-biking community was still in its infancy. But by 2016, the handful of “secret trails” he’d started riding as a college freshman had grown into the network of 300-plus miles of singletrack known as the OZ Trails. That year, as he captured this image at the International Mountain Biking Association’s World Summit in Bentonville—the rider suspended in midair after launching over a brave spectator plucked from the crowd—the photographer couldn’t help but reflect on just how much the sport had taken hold in the region, how NWA’s investment in the sport had seemed to soar to new heights, if you will.
In that moment, he found himself surrounded by a cycling-obsessed crowd of people from all over the globe who’d made Northwest Arkansas a destination on the strength of its biking trails alone—something that would have been unthinkable just a few years before. “That was a really cool realization, just kind of standing there seeing all the folks in the crowd and the athletes that were making the trek down to Bentonville, Arkansas,” Connor says. “That was—I don’t know if surreal is the right word—but it was an interesting moment to reflect on that.”