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.

IMG_0543

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.

IMG_0548

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…

Tour count down

The nights are longer, the days are warmer..that can only mean one thing…its almost July, the peak of summer. That, in turn can only mean one thing it Tour time.

I’m making a big assumption, which sometimes is a poor assumption, that when i say the Tour (note the capitalisation) that people know what i am referring to. It’s not overly helpful that the french and english words for tour are exactly the same, when you say the Giro or the Vuelta and the strange word raises eye brows and a question.

More often than not, people know that i ride bikes and also know of the Tour but   its clear from the follow up questions that might not entirely understand the concept. The conversationsusually goes

“i’m away in july at the Tour”

“wow you’re riding it”

“i’m not riding it…i’m working…taking photos”

So with only a few weeks to go its time to put the finishing touches to all the prep work, double check all the accommodation and make sure we’re not going to spend a night sleeping in a car, count how many changes of underwear you have.

For me i’m also working out what days i’ll get to ride my bike and try and engineer them to maximize those rides for the most fun, which mainly equals mountains.

 

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

 

 

Damp Hill Climb Fun

As the summer racing season draws to a close its time for the winter racing to take over and unless you are Australian then its time to think mud and hills and possibly both together. Combine the British  cycling cultures love of time trials and short, steep climbs making up for the countries general lack of mountains and you get the unique Hill Climb season.

Generally starting in late September/early October they take the risk of running foul the British weather, last years was cold but sunny…sadly this year was pretty damp but thankfully a bit warmer.

CJW_BS_HC_2017-0139

As you can see umbrella and Hi-Viz definitely required for all the Organisers

Only being the second year and perhaps affected by the forecast it was a little under subscribed but those who were able to make it put on a good show for the camera.

I never like shooting in poor weather, mainly because my technique is never quite good enough and when you are working next to some of the full time Pro’s it tends to get embarrassing. Today was no exception but at least they mostly came out well, at least when i gave up on a long lens and swapped to a widie and some flash

 

Hopefully avoiding a clash with another local Hill Climb an afternoon start time we can convince some more people out….especially some women would love to need a Top 10 results sheet for it.

Tales from the Tour…sweaty sunflowers

While sleeping with your face 50cm from the ceiling may not be ideal, getting up early to ride your bike on warm sunny day on some fairly quiet roads does make up for it.

It was as i headed out on my ride that i realised how close we were to the start for that morning as i had done barely a mile and came across proper race barriers. In a desire to avoid a start village i looked around for something to head for in a different direction and having seen a spire poking above the tree line i pointed the bike uphill and headed onward.

If i had had a chance to read more of the tourism section from the Tour road book i might have known what i was heading for. La Motte being a small chapel that crowns the hill of the same name and the top affords fantastic views of Vesoul and the surround area. To outline how hard and steep the climb was my slightly over geared pace did leave me vulnerable to being overtaken…two runners doing intervals up the paths overtook me…but they were collapsed at the top, when i finally got there

IMG_2773

IMG_2776

As a distraction from the beautiful views i was a little concerned by the presence of these signs and very quickly took my photos and headed back down

IMG_2774

with a bike ride out the way and a filthy McDonalds breakfast beckoning it was time to start thinking of photos and some proper bike riders.

With a plan firmly set for the day, map points planned for navigation we headed to the start to bake a bit in the sunshine as the riders started turning up…shame the panoramic shot was ruined by a giant cherry picker lift

IMG_2778

Having done the start and headed out from the start it became clear the “plan” had gone down the toilet the moment we left…one missed turn and a badly programmed sat nav sent us just far enough in the wrong direction that is cost us our entry onto the route, which in turn probably killed off at least 1 stop for the day.

A combination of good navigation, some tiny French roads and some luck we managed to get round and ahead of the bunch and came across some Gendarmes tat were feeling generous to let us past their barriers.

Having got on course and worked out we only really had one opportunity and a hard cut off point where it would be straight to the finish we were desperately scanning the surroundings hoping to see something photogenic. We were almost at buckling point of either shooting with some tall brown grass or just sacking it off and going to the finish when i saw what i was hoping for…a big enough patch of sunflowers.

Now i am not going to lie, these aren’t anything compared to the glorious fields of yellow further down south, but given how frequently i have missed those opportunities i wasn’t going to pass this up . The  only challenge now was finding a shot that worked, and when its hot enough that sweat is pouring off you and the sunflowers surrounding you are actually taller than you it becomes a little stressful. Having changed my mind at least 4 times and fought my way much further into the field that i had really planned the peloton came and went and the race was on to firstly get out of the field, which was a little challenging, but to the finish in time. After the poor show of navigation from the start of the day we lifted the standard for the afternoon with the only spanner in the works being this level crossingIMG_2786

A decent sprint finish and quite a few other good pics rounded out the day nicely.  All that was left was to find our accommodation, eat some food and hopefully some beer…