Cobbling together some memories

Inspired by all the love that outpoured over the weekend for the gap in the spring classics and the postponement of a new entry into the women’s racing calendar, i thought back through my time with the race.

It was the first professional race i ever photographed with credentials and a baptism of fire which is almost appropriate for the hell of the north. It’s also the race i have photographed the most times, i think i have a story from each race, which usually only seem fine after the fact and with a good, dark Belgian beer in hand i’ll bore everyone with them, although i do like to think some of them are funny.

Boonen on the Pave – (35mm fully manual Canon)

Firstly the weather…always at the forefront of peoples minds..i have never seen wet roubaix, in person or on TV the cobbles below are as close as its gots…and i’m not sure i care…there i said it, it may be an unpopular opinion but there it is.

2016 Paris Roubaix 114th Edition The wet cobbles of the Carrefour de l’Arbre

If i were watching at home i might be more for the muddy, water logged Roubaix but when you have to work the race there’s an element of danger that the mud adds that i am quite happy to do without.

Tom Boonen leads the peloton through the Trouee d’Arenberg during the 2009 edition of Paris Roubaix

If not for the dry conditions i would have no idea who was leading the peloton, probably not even editing it afterwards.

While i haven’t seen mud, i have had complete vista of other options…so cold i’ve had to wear gloves, so sunny i got sun burnt and so windy i almost got blown over and certainly got a face and mouth full of gritty dust, not exactly Belgian toothpaste, maybe more like Belgian mouthwash…

I honestly enjoyed the sunny editions, the dust can be irritating…your camera’s certainly need a good clean afterwards but so does everything else…the dust does get everywhere. Its not quite the dust storm that you get for Strade Bianche but it occasionally works for Roubaix

2018 Paris Roubaix 116th Edition – Geraint Thomas (Team Sky Procycling) fights through the dust behind his team car to chase back to the peloton after a crash

I’ll take blue skies and warmth any day of the week.

The peloton rolls through the early cobbles surrounded by the yellow flowers of a rapeseed crop

Aside from the racing, Roubaix was always a long weekend for me, bike and camera gear packed into the car, not that i had any plans for Cobbles, the ones outside the Palais de Compiegne were more than enough. As with most of the spring classics there are inextricable links with the great war’s the consumed Europe and Paris Roubaix is no different and its for that reason i was drawn to the Foret de Compiengne, where both the armistice of WW1 and the French surrender of WW2 was signed

The quiet tree lined roads of the Foret de Compiegne

Its possible that i have trivialised it but most times i have ridden there the fog hung around the tree’s like treacle i pictured it as the perfect location for filming a zombie apocalypse

The Forest of the Zombie apocalypse

Digressing back to the race itself, its hard to convey the chaos that ensues once the race hits the cobbles, following the race doesn’t always lend itself to what’s going on, each stop between Compiegne and Roubaix a snap shot of what’s happening right there in that moment. There a few set pieces that narrow the options…before luck and the pave claim their tributes. Once you leave sector 17 of Pave all bets are off…anything can happen, the race is on and stops for no-one.

The race has taught me that even applies to photographers, possibly even on a bike as well as in a car. The evening before i usually finish up my route planning, not that it varies too much from year to year, at least not in advance, bending the satnav to my will…programming in seemingly random targets that will take me on and off the race route at the right points.

That one year i climbed on a bulldozer to try and get a slightly different shot, as i stepped down i landed in a rut and fell flat on my face, twisting my ankle, the rest of the day was quite a challenge and every shot needed to be about 2 hobbled steps from the car, that day would not have been improved by mud.

It may seem foolish to follow the same plan every year, but its mostly just a starting point, the route doesn’t alter much, the official deviations are the same, the non-official deviations also don’t alter much, its the race the alters it, headwind or a tailwind…30s either way make the difference of popping out in front of the race with clear roads or sat watching the race go by and reprogramming the satnav…there’s always a back up option…hit the gas and zip off into the tiny roads of northern France.

The times its gone wrong are usually boring, the gendarme pauses just too long deciding if they are going to let you through, you don’t even get out of the car, there’s just a blur of colour. Its the times it almost goes wrong that are most exciting.

Having navigated an official deviation which cut down most of the public, an extra little jump was meant to get us back on schedule, the gendarme calmly waved us onto the route, driving along at a sensible speed for crowd lined road and hit a cobbled sector. As you’ve probably seen from the tv, or maybe even experienced yourself they are not nice things to be on and unless you have to drive fast on them, you don’t!

Sadly for me having rolled onto a longish, twisty section of cobbles, that choice was taken away…i spotted a blue light in the rear mirror, not an unusual site, there are lots of police bikes making sure things are safe, but this one seemed to be moving a little faster than expected. While i focused on the road ahead my passenger Pete looked behind…and suggested i might like to go a little faster. As it turns out, that wasn’t an outrider, it was the lead bike and Tom Boonen had taken a flyer 50km out. Yet again, grateful for a dry Roubaix, as i slammed my foot on the accelerator and gunned the crappy little car with about 50HP under the bonnet urging it forward. Almost immediately i have to then slam the brakes on and throw it round a cobbley s-bend, the crowd literally goes wild and i get a mexican wave as i somehow bounce round then end of the sector is in sight. But the cobbles aren’t done with me yet, there’s a crater like hole where the pave meets the tarmac which i manage to avoid but not without the suspension taking a bit of punishment…and the side mirror actually popping out. Somehow there’s enough time to slam the brakes on, Pete jumps out and grabs the mirror and i take great joy in smooth straight roads to pull away.

The kicker to that story, that i learned later, on that same corner was another good friend who was also working that day and had managed to get to the cobbles with a bit more time to spare. Usually no slouch when it comes to capturing the action, he was left stunned into paralysis as we flew by…apparently with looks of horror on our faces, which given how well the car handled i’m not overly surprised…

It wasn’t that long before we saw him again…having got a little breathing room to let the adrenaline wear off, the plan was adjusted and boom there was the shot.

while that’s probably the best story, there’s also the time i though i lost my passport, the time i drove into a crop field (although that doesn’t count as that was the TDF does Roubaix). Its safe to Taylor sums up how i feel after every Roubaix i have done

2018 Paris Roubaix 116th Edition – Taylor Phinney (Ef Education First Drapac) stretches out post race in the roubaix velodrome

In a way i am happy that Roubaix has been postponed, by the time October comes i might actually be able to make it to Europe, there might even be crowds and with the World Championships the week before it will be like we’ve had Holy Week twice this year. Hopefully we’ll get to see the newly crowed Womens and Men’s champions flying over the cobbles, although given the time of year i hope MVDP doesn’t go for the all white look…the mud will ruin that skin suit

While you may not agree and desperately long for the caked mud, dirty faces collapsed in the Roubaix velodrome i’m hoping i won’t have to pack my wellie boots…and on that note i’ll bow out

2018 Paris Roubaix 165th Edition – World Champion Peter Sagan (Bora Hansgrohe) taking a bow with his cobble trophy for winning Paris Roubaix

When the saddle is your happy place…dealing with recovery

Everyone has their hobbies, the activities they fill their free time with, however much or little of it they have. Its those things that make them happy or transports them to a place that makes them happy. Previously i have written about one of my happy places, a beautiful place just outside Maastricht in Valkenburg, a quiet loop with some beautiful ups and downs and flat and the tarmac dedicated to cycling and not the car.

Getting there requires two things that i can’t do at the moment, driving and cycling, ignoring the fact I cant walk without crutches. Being able to go abroad is a privilege and although there are plenty of local roads that have more than enough appeal, if i constrained to the UK, i’d go back to to the Mendips, not sure what it was about Cheddar Gorge but it was beautiful, the ride up, the ride down, soaking in the history those rocks have seen. It reminded me of a favourite Terry Pratchett book that was set in a valley that I imagined was much like Cheddar. Mostly though, it was probably the sheep and goats that kept me doing loops round it.

Getting on a bike would be enough, that simple pleasure of being outside and pedalling my way to peace and quiet, feeling sun and the wind on my face. The sense of freedom from everything that it gives is unmatched for me.

Exercise addiction, to some degree, is not the worst thing to suffer from because in general it should keep you fit, healthy and active which can’t be a bad thing. Although when injury or sickness strikes, whether it be a sniffle or something more serious like my shattered pelvis, the urge to exercise is hard to temper. Through many years and many miles I have pushed on occasionally or tried to get back to it as quickly as possible. Never have I come close to the heroics of some athletes. Tyler Hamilton grinding his teeth down while riding a Tour De France stage with a fractured collar bone but in contrast I’ve not earned my living from home it. Probably more appropriately is Geraint Thomas jumping back on his bike after a crash only for a post stage X-ray to show a small fracture (he continued and finished that tour almost 2 weeks of riding later).

There was definitely a few mins post crash where I thought I was going to shake it off, jump back on the bike and ride home. The frankly physically debilitating pain quickly dispelled that thought and it wasn’t long before acceptance set in, when the excellent paramedics asked if I could get in the gurney and I had to be the proverbial sack of potatoes and allow myself to be lift on.

The first 8 days post crash didn’t exactly sail by, but the complexity of my operation meant I had blood transfusions and recovering sufficiently to be let home was the only goal. This focused the mind, rather than think about the next 12 weeks and what that might entail.

My life is filled with cycling, drawers of clothing, photos…bikes in the house, not relegated to a shed or garage, which means a constant reminder of something I can’t do. In an attempt to curb this longing I have backed away from a things and let them rumble on without me, or with as little involvement as possible. Realising that watching the Pro’s races is abstracted enough I could live vicariously through others without envy. Although come April when I might normally be riding or even photographing (which despite its proximity to a given race is the worst way of spectating) it might be harder. Next year I will definitely trying to go to some Cyclocross races (assuming it’s not too rainy…)

The weather is also doing me a massive favour, my magic triangle of cycling is still flashing on 2 sides, although I might change “dark” or “cold” for “dangerously windy”. While the timing means no fitness for racing, the silver lining is that as it hopefully gets sunny and warm I’ll be ready for something, even if it’s slow and short.

All this has forced me to find some form of tranquility, an acceptance of what is, at this point in time, I can save that frustration for when I can ride properly again and mash the pedals till I am out of breath.

Since committing the first paragraphs of this post I had my six week check up, denoting the half way point of recovery. While they vehemently reinforced the “non weight bearing” conditions of the next 6 weeks, using my CT scan and the word “shattered” several times, they did say if I was careful I could do some pedalling. It’s probably been the most alien kind of cycling I’ve done, a foot on each pedal but only one doing anything, and pedalling at such a slow cadence that outside it would see me in the ditch.

Childhood Memories seen from two wheels

i didn’t start riding seriously until i was about 17, well i say seriously it was serious enough to be half arsed at ametuer racing. at some point between then and now, that i can’t quite place, i started viewing every road from a cycling point of view.

Anytime i’m not on a bike there is a sense of longing to be on the bike and enjoying the joy that any particular stretch of tarmac had to offer.

I’m hoping a lot of cyclists do this, as they drive up, down and round this country and other counties, look at glorious pictures in magazines they imagine themselves cruising up or down them on two wheels.

Lacets are probably the best example of this, whether you are going up or downhill, hairpins are the best road cycling the mountains has to offer

Tour de France 2018 Stage 17 Bagneres de Luchon – Saint Lary Soulan (Col de Portet) – Yellow Jersey wearer Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) climbing the lacets of Col de Portet

I remember one Skiing holiday boring my travelling party with tales of Alpe D’huez,as the coach took us up the 21 hairpins of the snowy climb. To be fair to them not sharing the same passion for cycling me wittering on about how hot my rims had gotten braking late into corners that i popped my tyre off is probably the height of tedium, i’ve avoid asking other cyclists if that applies to them as well.

But its hard not to reminisce about the excitement of an awesome stage of a bike race.

Tour de France 2018 Stage 11 Bourg St Maurice Les Arcs – Alpe D’huez – The dutch fans go crazy are the race hit hairpin 7 or “Dutch corner” as its known

While being able to tie iconic climbs or roads to some unique tale of cycling might keep fellow cyclists interested (maybe) taking a ride down memory lane of your own childhood is probably only interesting to yourself. For me the bike offers a unique experience when riding solo and disengage the brain a little bit and to ride round an area that i’ve spent a lot of time in to bring back some happy memories.

For nigh on 10 years my family camped in the south of Devon, tucked away in the peninsular town of Salcombe. A beautiful town sat at the mouth of an estuary surrounded by the rolling hills typical of Devon…the terrain being either up or down with very little flat at the top or the bottom.

As the roads were quiet and very narrow driving a car was impractical at times and my dad being an ex scout master, on foot was the primary means of travel. Now i am sure that for most of the walks to and from the campsite and in and around Salcombe i was not silent about the amount of walking we were doing. The tactic was to mollify me slightly with supplies of clotted cream fudge or coconut ice rationed out suitably like a proverbial carrot in front of a donkey.

The joy of entering this shop is almost indescribable, in the same way Vega casinos pump higher quality air around to keep people awake, i’d swear sugar vapour is floating around this sweet shop as you are presented with more fudge than you could possibly eat.

On some level i do remember that the walk to and from the campsite and the rest of Salcombe were not what you might call flat but i am not sure i ever really realised quite how brutally hilly they were. I certainly didn’t accurately remember how narrow and twisty they were.

Riding alongside Batson creek probably has a different appeal to walking along side it, The flat quiet road is crying out for a full on sprint along it round some gentle curves in the road, if only to enjoy some speed before you are well and truly reminded that Devon is not flat and any speed you may have is gone in a heartbeat.

As i struggled up this little beauty i figured out why i hadn’t quite remembered it being so steep or narrow . As i got to the top and it flattened out slightly a flush of memories came back, this was usually the point at which the pink and white sweet bag rustled and my parents would offer the reward as we were probably halfway back to the campsite. It was also a stretch of road where i remember signing Ging Gang Goolie while glow worms fluttered around us on the warm summer night.

If i had brought a mountain bike with me i’m sure i could probably find the long cliff top path between two places called Bolt Head and Bolt Tail but mostly in the hope of finding a different sweet shop that sold some very fine Turkish Delight.

If anyone was wondering where i got my sweet tooth from it was probably childhood holiday in devon…thankfully i am riding a bike so i can afford to indulge in a few delicious calories

Happy Places for the bike

Sometimes life isn’t all that you would like it to be and when that happens its important to find ways to counteract that. Its at these times i have to remind myself that i am lucky, the ability to travel and feed my habit of exercise addiction and hold back the demons at least for a little while.

Its a worry that when you talk about riding the bike as a potentially spiritual experience that you sound just the tiniest bit pompous but everyone can choose how they manage to escape the world for a little while. Some may do it via movies, music or books i choose to do it on two wheels powered by my legs and the focus of the mind.

Riding in the UK is often not a tranquil experience, angry drivers, potholes and all manner of things to threatening to bring you back with thump…sometime literally. This is not the experience in the Netherlands…the Dutch really know how to do cycling, proper bike lanes, traffic light controls specifically for bikes and a plethora of quiet back roads that take you away to another world. If you happen to find yourself near a canal there are beautiful paths along side but beware the wind, they haven’t found a way to make it always a tailwind…yet.

My first trip to this specific place involved almost all of those things, a trip up the canal from Liege, navigating round the outskirts of Maastricht and finally onto the 2012 World Championship circuit. It was a done deal there and then, the first climb that just stretched away not to steep, just as hard as you wanted to make it and the famous Amstel finish of the Cauberg. The entire loop is lined with bike lanes and is so quiet you’ll see more cyclists than cars, apart from one year when i came across a Truck rally, that was a lot of trucks.

That one anomaly aside its a nice place to be…enough peace and quiet to catch a deer grazing.

This isn’t a place with a cafe stop (at least for me), its not a place that’s always easy to ride, today was an un-shinning (60 miles in the cold, wind and rain as Storm Hannah blew through) its just to me its the epitome of what road cycling means to me…if you get the chance i encourage you to ride it.

i can’t promise it will hold the same magic for you as it does for me but then happy places in general are a very personal affair.

Winter Sun…escaping the rain

As soon as there was space in the house the Turbo came in and my outdoor winter miles dropped significantly. With the advent of Zwift those miles became more enjoyable, as many have repeat “Outside is free….inside is warm”

There’s no two ways about it, I’m a fair weather cyclist, any of my team mates will tell you that. Don’t think for a second that means I don’t go out in the cold, wind and rain. Of the few really long rides I’ve done this autumn/winter I’ve been soaked through, so cold my hands stopped working and did 93 miles into a constant headwind. This definitely fits into the extreme end of type 2 fun, a grim sense of satisfaction that I’d made it.

Given the option though I’d always take my perfect conditions of 25C, brilliant blue skies and a tailwind the whole way. Not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth I took the brief gap between jobs to go and sun myself and escape and week of downpours in the U.K. Initially looking at Mallorca but then deciding that it wasn’t warm enough so I set my sights on the Canaries and having been to Gran Canaria and Tenerife I thought I’d try Lanzarote….not a choice I would regret!

For the next 5 days I had glorious sunshine and some of the smoothest tarmac I’ve ever had the pleasure to ride…it’s so good, most of the island is worthy of a Tour de France stage finish.

Thinking it was flat because it didn’t have a giant mountain in the middle was a mistake though….it’s not flat.

An old friend from Uni would have probably described it as “rolling” but then he would have described anything less than a hard day in the alps as rolling.

The roads generally went gently up or gently down with a few biggies to test the legs or your nerve…there were even some switchbacks to enjoy.

The wind was the only downside, the volcanic peaks funnelled the wind beautifully, it was a case of switching between barrelling along in the tailwind, leaning hard into the often terrifying crosswinds or grimacing into the headwind. you could forgive an English for wishing for his hedgerows to give a modicum of respite from being pushed left or right into the gutter.

In a final hurrah to top the week out with almost 300miles I did the closest approximation to a lap round the island I could manage. Carefully planning the route to give me almost 30miles home mostly downhill and definitely with a tail wind. Despite the slow and tiring miles into the headwind and up the gradual climbs that proceeded it cruising back almost averaging 20mph seemed quite respectable and a nice way to finish.

As I sit in the airport staring at my ridiculous tan lines and thinking fondly of the time here I look despairingly down at the piles of clothes in my hand luggage ready for the joys of British winter….

KM3349 Riders KM9147.5 Me

So that’s a wrap on the 2018 Tour de France, over 9000 KM and i am back where i started almost a month ago and what a journey its been, there have been highs and low, ups and downs (and not just because of the mountains) . Somehow Pete and I managed to not have any full blown arguments and very few crossed words and i know i and not always the most fun to be around.

The lows –

The first few days were rough, getting back into the groove of snapping is always tough and the last race i shot was Liege Bastonge Liege. The first stage was all  a little rushed and trying to work our way round the tiny winding roads of the Vendee meant a lot of driving for very few photos. to finish trying out a new lens on the first sprint finish and only realising in edit that it wasn’t up to the job….the ensuing uncomfortable silence was not an ideal start.

The Queen stage, photos in the car is always hard, getting off and back on the course but as soon as you hit the mountains it gets really tough, the sparse road system generally going over mountain passes. That meant the Col d’Aubisque was the place to be, the pressure of only one stop to sum up the race. Combine camera issues with weird light and the yellow jersey on the wrong side. In hindsight i can see what i could have done better…next time i’m on a mountain when a Welshman is in the Yellow jersey on the Queen stage of the Tour de France.

The highs

In terms of  photos it might seem like an odd choice but it sums up the world of working on the Tour for me


Or for something thats less unusual but certainly unique


Outside of the photos the are probably 3 things that stand out for me, mostly for the ego boost.

Romain Bardet using one of my photos, unsurprisingly it got a few more likes than if when i posted it, about 21,000 more 🙂

The whole of stage 20, the place i’d chosen was full of Basques and they were really on point with being enthusiastic…they quickly decided i looked like ex-pro Michael Rasmussen, who then retweeted the video of them singing to me, 19k views and 36 retweets later they then sang my name to me, yeap a bit superficial i know

But after this the food and the seat they gave me made the 5 hours i sat on the road much better, shame i was driving and couldn’t enjoy the beer they also offered.

The icing on the cake was a good day in Paris, some great pictures, a ride in a race vehicle at breakneck speeds from the top of the bottom of the Champs Elysees and finally a little bit of partying. Special thanks going to Pete for sucking it up one last time and going out, Sophie and Sadhbh for securing us beer when it seemed impossible and getting us in on the party action. It made the drive out of Paris and back to the UK a little harder but sleep is for the weak….until next time Tour De France

KM3349 Riders KM8207 Me

So that’s a wrap….the riders as done and off to get drunk, relax, eat what ever they want maybe even have an outrageous party…if they do I’d quite like an invite.

Along with over eight thousand kilometres driven (and I’m still not home) I’ve got 105GB/7488 photos taken…not sure what the edit/publishes count is…but it’s definitely lower.

For the first time I shot at the Arc de Triomphe and got the shots I wanted…to top that off I hitched a lift back down from the top in the Voiture Balai…that’s the fasted I’ll ever go on the Champs Elysees, exhilarating is the only word for it.

It’s now time for beers and maybe a party…although I’m not sure we’ve been invited to any and having just seen Taylor Phinney be turned away it could be a hard night to get in when you’re not on the guest list.

KM3233 Riders KM7934 Me

With at least a few hundred kilometres left to drive and race the Tour is pretty much over. Geraint just has to stay on his bike now, no proper racing for him to do.

For me the Queen stage in the mountains was a bit of an anti-climax. On the final mountain stage you hope for some action but with only one stop for the day you really have to hope you get lucky. Sadly Lucky I was not….camera issue just as the GC group arrived on me almost left me with no photos for the day. It’s a equal foil to the joy of capturing something you are happy with so Pete had to put up with a bit of grumpy silence for the evening. Thankfully our hotel aka Pete’s house was less than a mile down the road and dinner was sorted so there was no coup de gras for the evening of a long drive and scant dinner options.

With a long day looming and a long drive to the start I had to skip another ride up the Col de Marie Blanc, which after a little romp up it the previous morning was sad but with sleep needed and rain stopping play we packed up and headed off.

The rain on the drive to the start was no filling us with joy….bad light and sat in one place for 4 hours is not ideal.

The time literally vanished as we arrived so there was no time to recce the course and then loop back round to stop somewhere, I had to negotiate the course with riders still doing their recce and fans not quite paying attention.

By the time I started walking back to the 3KM point the rain was completely gone and the waterproof was not needed and in the heat I actually needed to take it off.

With all the riders coming though there is plenty of time to find the shot you want, my challenge of finding some good Fans was easily achieved, even with barriers.

The Basque fans were amazing, starting with deciding I looked like michael rasmussen and treating me to a little chorus of that and then after he retweeted the video a little chorus of my name. But e icing on the cake was food and then a seat

The pictures full of enthusiasm and colour were a bonus

Now onto Paris…4 1/2 hours to Poitier…one late night phone call to get into the hotel and a good nights sleep and we’re ready for one last stage and maybe a bit of partying before it’s back to reality outside of the weird Tour bubble.

KM2830.5 KM6839.7 Me

What a couple of days…post stage 15 i was not feeling great, not the greatest days of photos, no lunch, dinner wasn’t till after 10pm and i definitely didn’t feel quite right. I had made the statement that i needed to go to bed early but having not found somewhere to eat before 10pm already screwed that up it went completely sideways when 2 Dutchmen and a Columbian wanted to buy us drinks and we stayed up into the wee hours. The catalyst for going to bed was some guy sticking his head out of the window asking us to either talk about something else or talk quieter…

It was frustrating to then have a very late stage start and the Col D’Aspin literally on the door step and not be able to ride. It was a nerve wracking prospect of spending at least the afternoon on a mountain further than from a toilet than I was comfortable with.

I can’t tell you anything about the stage start, the Moto GP style grid or anything as it was restricted to 10 snappers so that left us with only one place to be.

We left for the stage finish pretty early in the hope of a press buffet and maybe even a freebie or two in the press room. These fabled things ceased out of existence the moment we have the opportunity to have them….it was Schrödinger buffet.

By the time I needed to head out I was feeling close enough to ok. A short chair lift up and then a reasonable walk down and I found my spot

Lacets and a great bit or road with some fans….perfect. I was beginning to wish I hadn’t lugged as much stuff as I did with me…didn’t really need everything. The walk back down after the race really made me regret it….I felt sorry for anyone who sat next to me after. Having managed not to die walking down a grass ski run, cutting off quite a few km of walking we decided to leave early with the evacuation.

This is probably one of the most fun things about leaving a mountain stage…getting through all the blocked roads tucked behind the blue’s and twos of the Gendarmary.

This one was slightly more fitful than most, they seemed to get bored a few times and pulled over which left us stuck in traffic but as soon as they started off again there we were pulling back in their slipstream and escaping the valley.

Even with this we still almost missed that chance for dinner…some how Pete managed to beg a small local place that was pretty much closed to give us some food tartiflete and a salad was like a Mitchlen star meal at 10pm in France…or even like rocking horse poo…it almost doesn’t happen.

All in all a pretty great day….

I may have skipped riding for yet another day now but sleeping in till 9:30 was just what the body needed…bike ride… à demain

KM2765.5 Riders KM6598 Me

Today was definitely one of the toughest of the tour…with 5 days to go I am feeling significantly more tired that I did last week.

With a bit of rest day socialising turned into a later night than planned my rest day did not leave me feeling rested.

The lap of the Carcassonne ring road to get to the right place was an amusing distraction before the race had begun.

The first stop was something I have been waiting for all Tour…for me the epitome of Tour de France photos…sunflowers.


I still don’t thing I have done it justice…I will just have to come back.

The next stop was a challenge for photographing a bike race…shooting in near pitch black…but you as countless irritating people like to point out, it’s not a challenge…it’s an opportunity.

Today clearly being the day for find opportunities I decided to shoot the last climb on the decent rather than the uphill part.

Perhaps not my most successful spot but lessons learnt and remembered…it will work better next time. It was also a lesson that there are some chippers in the pro-peloton when it comes to descending. The variety of weird lines, squealing brakes left me thinking that maybe I’m not so bad


The finishing touch to the day was a journey to the accommodation over the Col D’Aspin, the tiniest road i could imagine before getting onto the main road, cresting the summit into mist and sunset. The amount of concentration required for my day of driving has ruined me, its time for bed and hopefully a late start tomorrow…