KM 1568 Riders KM 4132 Me

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.

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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.

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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..

 

 

KM1411.5 Riders KM3777 Me

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.

KM900 ish (Riders) KM 2888 (me)

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

KM 615.5 Riders KM 2060 Me

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..

KM420.5 (Riders) KM1717.17 (me)

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

Photos 1000/13.2gb

KM 383.5 Riders KM1492 me

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…

Post Roubaix wash up….

Figuratively and literally a requirement after this year Hell of the North..

The normal weather punditry leading up to this years was spiced up with quite a few days or rain meaning the recon for the riders were quite the mud bath. But the Sun was ignoring the fan (and all those who weren’t riding, driving or generally working) who were baying for Mud. A few days of sunshine baked the worst of it into the normal dust storm with the odd patch of damp to keep the riders honest.

Modern cycling, certainly at Grand Tour level is sometime reduced to numbers, Watts, VAM, Vo2Max one day racing bucks against this trend and Roubaix is the pinnicle of that.

The only 2 numbers that matter at Roubaix are 29 and 54.4 (at least for this year) as its the number of cobbled sectors and the total number of Km’s that will be spent bouncing over them. That’s not to say bike technology doesn’t play a part, tyre pressures, light weight wheels capable of withstanding the rough roads and aero bikes to make you slide through the wind. You only have to look at the luck of Team Sky to know this can be wiped out in an instant. A crash on on the first cobbled sector robbed Geraint Thomas (a former Junior Winner of Paris Roubaix) of the chance to contest the race.

2018 Paris Roubaix 116th Edition - a muddied and battered Gerain

It seems that the same is true for photographers as well, or at least for me, i’ll spend the night before planning, going over previous years photos either looking for something different or even something the same if its worked well previous years.

The plan was out of the window on the first planned stop, the normal farmers field with adequate parking space was fenced off and i was left to drive on trying to keep my on the road and the spectators but also to the side of the road looking for a stopping space.

Had that not happened i might not have seen Geraint valiantly trying to chase back on behind an equally brave team car going hell for leather onto the cobbles trying to stay ahead of him

2018 Paris Roubaix 116th Edition - Geraint Thomas (Team Sky Proc

From that point on the plan was completely out the window, experience has taught me (usually by punishing me) not to correct the plan to, just skip the step and move on. If i was on a motorbike then this wouldn’t be quite so costly but in the car there’s a limit to how many good stops you can make, there’s plenty of mediocre stops you can make.

Just when i thought it was back on track…bam another hit, a missed deviation sign meant instead of shooting from the side of the sector..i was on the sector!

With a small amendment to the plan…a stop resulted in this photo

2018 Paris Roubaix 116th Edition - World Champion Peter Sagan (B

Ok, back on track, a cheeky little stop in Cysoing just like so many other year and then onto the finish, well almost. Thanks to the joys of arriving with minutes to spare and more cars than parking spaces…as i ran into the velodrome i could hear the cheer go up…guess that’s the finish then. That’s the first time in 11 years of covering the race I’ve missed the finish…I’ll add that to my list of lessons learned…now its time for a shower!

 

2018 Paris Roubaix 116th Edition - Taylor Phinney (Ef Education

 

 

Duo the fun…Duo the pain

The Christmas break is fast approaching but sadly so is the cold weather which means my trifecta of conditions i won’t go out in happen pretty much every day…Cold, Dark and Wet. But on the plus side i have logged quite a lot of Zwift hours and also cracked through quite a lot of christmas movies while training.

But at this time of of year the Pro’s are starting to find the areas of warm, or at least warmer weather to make everyone jealous and Instagram is full of people loving the Australian summer. Once i get rid of a very jade skin tone i start thinking back to the highlights of last season and days of sunshine and fun rides.

One highlight of the year just gone was the Duo Normond, having tried and failed to get myself organised with a partner this year it finally came together. With the help of  teammate Andy some great accommodation was sorted and with Aaron as a keen partner all i needed to do was get there.

With the challenge of limited leave allowance it meant a less relaxed journey on the friday rather than the other guys and my external optimism or more accurately my innate ability to underestimate how long things take meant i arrived in the wee hours of the morning. By a miracle navigation and some careful instructions not only did i find the house with no issues (the collection of TT bikes in the shed gave me some confidence of being in the right place) but i also found my bed and snuck in quietly without waking a soul and pretty much passed out.

Previous visits to the Normandy area of France didn’t give me hope of a nice dry weekend but waking on the Saturday morning to glorious sunshine was the best start to the weekend. I would say the “gentle spin” to Marigny was pleasant but get my teammates on quiet sunny roads on TT bikes that aren’t exactly flat leads to a very generous definition of “gentle”.

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It was the ride back with just Aaron and I that the realisation of just what i was letting myself in for, a combination of a 58t chainring and a him being few kilos lighter made for a challenging climbing pace. The pressure of not letting him down was definitely starting to weigh down on me and really helping the nerves start building up.

When Sunday morning came all was looking promising for a lovely day, the first pair from the team were off early and set a great bench mark for the day in great weather but as noon came around and our start time drew nearer the clouds were starting to thicken and the biblical downpours i’d seen pictures of from last year threatened again.

Having been and photographed quite a lot of Pro TT’s the start ramp was not an unusual site, but actually going down one was, the prospect of going down one and straight up a hill was not making it any easier on the nerves.

As we set off my prediction of pain came true all too quickly as i struggled to keep pace with my younger and faster partner, holding back the panic and trying to compose myself into “the zone” i merely grunted to ease back as we crested so i could tuck in and get settle into the pace. As we gently eased (from a cornering perspective definitely not pace) through the bends of the flattish opening km’s my red line definitely passed i was left wondering how much harder it was going to get, respite came in the form of a mini disaster and Aaron unshipping his chain which afforded me a minute or two of coasting.

This was to be the last respite of the day as he then proceeded to push well past my limit for the rest of the course, i feel this image typifies my memories of the ride…Aaron on the front, my desperately clinging on to his wheel.

 

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With no course recce i was riding entirely blind, but my team mates had only given my words of warning for one decent that was “a bit tricky”, sadly this was the one decent i misread the road entirely and narrowly avoided the bush with some effective breaking, which on new carbon rims was an experience in of itself.

Somehow we made it round the “hilly” part of the course in one piece and rolled through Marigny to start the final 10km’s of the ride. At this point my legs started feeling a bit better, as i realised at the final turn it was mainly because it was slightly down hill. The sprint out of the dead turn extinguished whatever fire was left in my legs but thankfully by this point Aaron and i were matched on tiredness, having done the lions share of the work evened us out. With a sense of numbness we pushed the last bit of energy out in the downhill sprint to the line and sought somewhere to collapse

As you can probably tell from the post race photos…one of us was the hammer and the other was the nail, and if you need a clue i couldn’t string a sentence together for 10mins afterwards)

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Photo credits to Mike Smith for capturing Aaron and I hurting ourselves for 33miles