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

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Or for something thats less unusual but certainly unique

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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

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.

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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

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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…

KM2549.5 Riders KM5954.5 Me (still)

So with the rest day upon us its time for some fun shenanigans away from the race…others can stress about the Team Sky press conference but just so it feels like we’re there here’s a picture of Dave doing some classic hand gestures…i can almost predict that will accompany what ever crazy quote he gave out

Tour de France 2018  Stage 2 Mouilleron-Saint-Germain to La Roch

Meanwhile i had better plans…well different at least. Having seen it and photographed the race there i had decided to ride back up to Pic de Nore, a whole 1211m above sea level. By the route i had chosen the basically meant i rode up hill for 26 miles solid, there was one brief decent off the Col de la Croix Sous which was so sketchy i was happy to see the back of it. Single track..dappled sunlight..pot holes and tight blind hairpins, what more could a boy want, other than wide smooth mountain descents where you can actually see the road to read how tight the next corner is.

Still the i made it to the top and took the obligatory bike picture (to go with the picture of goats i took on the way up)…i even had to wait for someone else to finish taking theirs, i then set off for the joy of 23 miles back down on a much better road, sadly traffic and it still being slightly tricky i don’t think i was as fast as the peloton going down it yesterday.

all that was left to fulfill my rest day schedule was to look for some non bike pictures to take and the garden of the Gite i am staying in did not disappoint

 

KM 1835 Riders KM 5351 Me

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)

Photo count

3342

45GB