So today was a long and winding road…lined by some of the best scenery France has to offer. It’s not the mountains but it’s pretty damn hilly and also naturally beautiful.
To get to the first stop of the day I had to pass up the following..
Sunflowers…they were at KM0 for that day and mediocre at best…skipped
Winding downhill into a valley….nice string out peloton would be nice…skipped
Tunnel carved into/through the cliff…everyone loves a good tunnel but still…skipped.
More winding down hill…skipped
Finally I got to the stoop I’d heard people talking about in the morning Vallon Pont D’Arc. Parking was easy but getting in a place to get a shot was going to be hard.
Trying to walk through thorny trees and bushes on loose scree loaded with more camera gear that I really needed was honestly very scary…no tears but certainly blood and sweat
There were 4 or 5 of us who found our way up and in the interests of everyone’s safety made a pact to stay still until the entire peloton has passed…no one wanted to start a rock slide and hit a car or, god forbid a cyclist.
Sadly not everyone was quite so considerate or even clever. A few late comers completely ignorant of the risk barged on and scarpered while there were still car and riders passing below. Somehow major calamity was avoided…all that was left was to find my way back out…rescuing a fellow snappers photo bib with my monopod on the way.
With the shot taken all that was left was getting to the finish…an hour and a half on some very demanding but also stunning roads and I made it…desperate to go back and ride there at some point.
So the mountains have started and what a couple of day it been so far and with Alpe D’Huez providing the crescendo for the Alps today.
When travelling by car to cover the race the mountains are often a wistful look at what might have been, all the curling hairpins to capture to the peloton winding its way up…the beautiful vistas of the giant peaks in the back ground. Its so often a one stop day, the lack of roads makes it impossible to get back ahead and catch them again. But if you can find a great spot all the could have’s vanish from memory
Yesterday driving the route we saw a beautiful damn over which the race went and the when winding up the climb to La Rosiere we were making calculation of whether it was possible to shoot down the hairpins and still get back ahead and stop. Sense prevailed and we found the spot, then a few KM later found a spot to park the car, which is usually more of a challenge. a few shortcuts between the hairpins and the walk down was relatively pleasant. The walk back up after the race had been through was less pleasant and a little bit sweaty but there’s a lot of walking to do for these pictures.
Post race was a big transfer from La Rosiere straight to the Alpe, miscalculated a little and had a 3 hour drive but luck was in and we found a restaurant open to get some found and the after hours check in worked perfectly. Getting there was a little more challenging as both of my Sat Nav’s (phone and a tomtom), at the same time, decided that it wasn’t possible to get to my destination…just want you need a you are just skirting round a major city and several motor way junctions. I had a complete sense of humor failure for at least 5 mins.
Still sleep was had, a tough ride was done this morning (fasted ride up Alpe D’Huez is not to be recommended)
Seeing as the riders haven’t raced today I leave the update on then vs me on KM’s until tomorrow…it’s safe to say my north to south transfer has pushed my lead significantly.
The first part of my transfer as far as Troyes went very smoothly…arrived at a nice hotel in enough time to get dinner. This almost went awry when sat there waiting for someone to take my order the kitchen closed. Somehow they took pity on me, and given there were 3 loads of team staff who were still going to get served I think the sad look in my eyes swung it.
Within minutes steak and fries appeared and a beer shortly after. The waiter was so apologetic they didn’t have the right glass for the beer, while this is almost certainly a crime in Belgium they may be more lenient in France and I know I could look past it
The following morning was entirely taken up with driving the rest of the way to Annecy. As I approached the accommodation I booked I was getting concerned as I was disappearing into smaller and smaller roads but somehow I’ve lucked out. The Gites is run by a lovely lady called Louise who welcomed me in with a cold drink and extended me the use of her washing machine…total result.
I can now head into the mountain stages with clean pants, socks and most importantly cycling kit.
While there wasn’t a bike race to photograph I thought I’d indulge in another subject….bee’s
So quite a lot of people have made it to the rest day, sadly quite a few haven’t and quite a few haven’t made it in great condition.
Today was not brilliant for me, i’ve done Roubaix enough times to know what it takes to cover it in a car but a cobbled stage is always a different kettle of fish so i went with both an easy and safe plan. After a pleasant 20 or so miles on a little tour of some local Great War memorials, which is always humbling, i headed out. Ignoring the start and striking out for the last section of cobbles which were in a cluster of potentially feasible photo opportunities.
Coming off the Motorway just as they were closing the junction and finding a great place park which meant i should be able to do 3 places i was feeling relaxed and even a little smug.
Heading out for corner of sector 4 i was surprised to see a press car coming up the cobbles as i thought we weren’t allowed today, but could swallow my jealousy as they would save me a hard sweaty run between the first two stops. But from this point Slowly, inexorably and almost inevitably the smile was wiped from my face.
The two leaders arrived…all was well…the yellow jersey group was just seconds away and at that point my world went light blue…a fan decided that was the perfect time and position to be waving a flag..brilliant! A few choice words, which he possibly didn’t understand and i headed to my lift, elbowing a few people out the way. At this point i realise the lens hood had fallen off my camera..too late now that cars moving.
The second spot save me, a nice clean picture of most key riders, although Geraint rudely decided to hide on the inside behind another rider, that one ticked off its time to head to the third. Again a little elbow work to get through the crowd and walk-jog to the car…at this point i see that my carefully planned escape route has been blocked…somehow in the 40 mins since i left someone parked up a camper van and put their awning across the rest of the road. Green with envy i watch the moto’s breeze under the awning and head off. Looks like the verge/field is my only option…and lets be honest it was mostly field i check for a ditch and once i am sure its safe i veer around and dash to the next spot.
By this time i am too late i’ve missed the Yellow jersey group and in some kind of Benny Hill tribute its at this point the belt slips on my shorts (my previous walk-jog must have knocked it) and its just as the race helicopter is directly above me. Picture if you will a small tornado of dust blowing around me while i try and keep my shorts up…i was not impressed.
Thankfully i got enough shots for the day and could head off of the first half of my 800km transfer to Annecy pretty quickly for the test day…which will hopfully involve some washing and a ride up a mountain..
It’s almost like a tour from the 90’s and you could be forgiven for decrying it as dull compared to the constant full gas racing of this years Giro. But on the other hand can you blame the riders for taking it easy again with what lies in wait tomorrow…not exactly a silent assassin, more like a big brute of a security guard checking the list of names.
So as we wind further north and further east it’s was a “rolling”, as an old uni team mate who was fine with going up hill would have
lied described it.
Before we hit proper mountain I am often confused by categories of climbs…I drove up something that’s was probably 6mins of decent effort…and it didn’t even get a mention.
Scenic shots were the call of the day with several options out on course of fancy houses, odd buildings and cathedral’s. Not much action to be seen until the last 10km and that’s the purview of the Moto snappers…by that time I’ve been stood baking in the sunshine on the finish line for 30mins.
So with peloton essentially extending their club ride for a second day and finishing it with another decent town sign sprint it time to start planning tomorrow and the cobbles.
So another stage crossed off..lots of stops with the twisty course and a whole load of coast line
And now it’s midway through the next stage….due to my travel companion wanting to watch some people kick a ball around it was a late night which meant not as much sleep and no time for a ride in some beautiful French county side.
Given how nice the hotel was I’ll be noting that one down for another time when there is a chance to enjoy.
As for my stop today…I found a big rock to stand on….unfortunately too many options is leaving me very indecisive. It would help if the sun would stop going behind clouds blue sky could make or break the stop
Repeat until it’s drilled in….thou shalt start the stage with a full tank….thou shall start the stage with a full tank.
This is pretty much race prep 101…and I’m blaming the dodgy fuel gauge and Apple maps. While I don’t have any photographic evidence of it…I’d swear blind that the tank was at least a 1/4 full. This should have been plenty to make it to the start but somehow the warning light flashed on…the dual carriageway we were on was more barren than some motorways in the U.K.
The sat bag. Siri and google betrayed us and it was pure lucky that not far up the road there was one open…2 Miles left on the range
Somehow despite this, we parked back in the same place (a convenient distance from the buses) we still made it Avant (leaving before the race)
In a catalogue or errors for the day once the stage was over I managed to pick the wrong location for the sat nav. 20mins later I spotted the error, turned it around and headed the right way. Luckily my travel companion was busy editing in the car and missed the awkward deja vu I had heading back the way we came.
When the night ends with not only getting a good dinner at a proper restaurant but also checking into your hotel (and sorting the double for the twin you had booked) you can’t be too upset…much worse has been endured..
Given today’s stages was a short (ish) team time trial for a brief minute I thought it was going to be a short easy day…how foolish i was.
A course recce didn’t leave us wowed, at least not from photo opportunities but there were a few options that could work.
22 teams…maybe 2 or 3 pictures each…be all done in a few hours…no need for podium pictures as we won’t make it back in time.
With plan A and B set we take a wonder through the team buses looking for some riders who might have ventured out early.
The cut of time drawing close we dash back to the car to head out on the course prior to the riders…it didn’t take very long for plans A and B to get thrown in the bin.
2mins late and security wouldn’t let us on the course and they didn’t really seem open to negotiation so plan C it was…dump the car and run around like crazy shooting Team as they waited and on the start ramp.
500 pictures later it was more like an individual time trial and a marathon editing effort to keyword and generally sort out.
Still it’s always fun being in the heart of the action
Totals so far
Riders 420.5 KM
Car 1717.17 KM
Bike 89.7 km
So day 2 is done and dusted, dinner was found, which in France after 9pm is always a pleasant surprise and now it’s time for bed.
Thankfully today was a later start, despite being over an hour and a half away it was a later start for us. To impress the irony or the alarm clock I squeezed in a nice pre-brekkie spin and rode pretty much to the stage 1 start. I left later than we did in the car for the first day and got almost 20miles. Somehow there was time for breakfast, faffing and all sorts before leaving for the stage.
If at any point you think working as a snapper on the tour is an awesome easy life I’ll keep totting up the miles I’ve driven. So far the grand total is 927 miles or 1492km for all the pro EU people.
The amount of racing I’ve seen is counted in minutes…even counting watching on a big screen through a zoom lens.
The TTT tomorrow should be fun…sat in the same place mostly for a few hours…22 picture to take…easy day…
It feels like i’m opening myself up to the criticism du jour but i find life stressful, i find the modern work place harder and harder to subjugate myself to. The pressure that i feel means that i no longer consider the modern work place to be a Dolly Parton kind of place…less 9-5 and more 9-9. Having the ability to check emails any time and any place and given my role working in IT designing systems meaning i can work any time and any place. Most days it feels like i am my own worst enemy creating the prison that i seem to willingly put myself into everyday.
So the question is, how best to maintain the work life balance or at least how best to distract my brain from thinking about work and exploding. Everyone has their outlet and coping strategy and mine is riding a bike.
I find that the training ride the best way to sort through the day, the week and solve problems, bimbling along the quiet sussex country lanes with only the odd pothole to focus the mind. The legs turn without thinking, riding on auto pilot leaves my brain free to think about what ever is troubling me that day and hopefully solve it or at least accept it.
What if i want more than that, what if i need to stop thinking about all of it, well racing is the way to go once you pin a number on that is all there is to think about.
A time trial is good start, but unless you are a complete glutton and do more than 25 miles its only going to distract you for an hour or so and i find the solo nature of it can lead to the mind wandering. There isn’t enough else going on to detract from the pain you are trying to inflict on yourself.
Road racing is the way to go, there is no chance of getting distracted, the wheel in front the wheel behind and the wheel on either side really focuses the mind. In a truly hard race the intensity of effort can be enough of a distraction, the surge of the peloton, the sprint out of the corners and then rise of the road. Trying to avoid the intensity can also be hard, watching the wind direction, following the right wheels and positioning yourself in the right place to smooth out the surges. At this point the brain enters a zen like state, what you are having for dinner is gone, the amount of unread emails in your mailbox and all the meetings you have the next day are obliterated. If you are truly lucky and this will last until you make it to bed when your legs are so tired all you can do is focus on refueling, cleaning and resting.
From the outside it might look like chaos but there truly is some calm and tranquility to find in the eye of the storm.