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…

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.

 

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

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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

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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

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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…

Tales from the Tour….hurrah…Mountains…kinda

Most cyclists are slightly obsessed with the mountains, doesn’t really matter what ones just so long as there is a road up and down them, it doesn’t even matter if they are suited to climbing they will still drag their arse up even if its only to go down.

The same could be said for photographers, the vistas can be just stunning

Cycling - Tour de France - Stage 18

No more trying to scrape out a scenic picture that doesn’t quite work or when you are really desperate going for the poor mans scenic of a bridge (not that i haven’t done that)

Liege Bastogne Liege 2016 102nd Edition

As excited as we should be for the first summit finish when its combined with a really short stage and a shuttle bus to the finish it actuality it meant a pretty dull day. Having spent most of the day driving to make sure we caught the shuttle, to then spent another 40 mins in a bus that was actually hotter than most saunas i have visited didn’t set me up for feeling cool and collected.

Walking the final 400m up to the finish wasn’t exactly a picnic…it was the steepest part of the climb…never felt such an urgent need for a shower, the only consolidation was that almost everyone was in the same boat, but at least the view was worth it.

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This kind of stage is a great illustration into how little of a race/stage some photographers see despite being lucky enough to be within the bubble of the race. For once i was a bit lucky that there was a giant screen in view of my finish line position, but if not for this i would have seen the last 30 secs of the race as they crested the climb for the last meters to the line.

With the race done it was time to head back down with all the normal joys of getting off a mountain after a tour stage, at least on the way down i was able to sit in a car with the AC on rather than sauna it up in the shuttle bus.

The hotel was definitely on the lower end of the glamours scale so it wasn’t quite the conventional twin room – double bed with a single bunk over the top.  Over a fairly average dinner my travel companion Pete magnanimously offered a game of bowling to decide who took the bunk. Not being a great bowler i didn’t old out hope of taking the win and reduce the risk of headbutting the ceiling in my sleep. All was going mediocre until Pete realised what the little lines on the lane were for…this outstanding revelation ensured him the win and double bed..Ah well, by that point i was so tired it didn’t really matter!

 

 

 

 

Tales from the Tour…ticking off another stage

There is always a risk that the first week of a Grand Tour can get boring, from everyone’s perspective. Flat/Sprint Stages designed to put the leaders Jersey on a non GC rider, the transition from the Grand Depart to home country roads. Its important to race organisers to visit as much of their country as possible but logistics constraints don’t often make for the best stages.

With not much to going on at the start i fall back into my default, which is gawping at and photographing the nice bikes , although my normal photo companion isn’t too keen…i like to sneak a few in…surely every one likes a nice shiny pro bike

Tour de France 2017  Stage 4 Mondorf Les Bain Vittel A view of G

As has been the theme this year, security is much more visible and present at this years races, but in a change from the armored trucks and machine guns today it was shown in a much more lovable form, who doesn’t love a happy looking puppy

Tour de France 2017  Stage 4 Mondorf Les Bain Vittel Security is

Contrary to my thoughts at the start of the day it wasn’t going to finish as a damp squib, there was excitement inbound for the race and also for me, although potentially curtailing some for the remainder of the race.

Despite looking like he was going to be the dominant force in this years sprint stages Marcel Kittel was noticeably absent from the bubble of sprinters charging at the finish line. but given the events it was potentially a lucky happenstance to miss out.

With Mark Cavendish desperate to salvage a season marred by injury and illness with some success at the Tour any stage without Kittel in contention was going to be an opportunity not to be missed. Baring that in mind you could possibly apportion some or most of the blame on the Manx Man for the resulting crash when trying to fit two cyclists in a space only meant for one. The race jury seemed to take the opposite view laying the blame squarely on Peter Sagan for what seemed like a deliberate elbow. Not sure i really agree but the still image doesn’t really do him any favours, either way it left the race poorer by two great characters one disqualified and the other injured.

Tour de France 2017  Stage 4 Mondorf Les Bain Vittel Britains Ma

With that bit of Drama out the way it was time for some excitement of my own…

There is always a margin of doubt when booking accommodation for the tour, you often end up in the middle of no where, well outside the comfort zone of any city or large town hoping that you can find the place, its actually open when you arrive and that they have your reservation.

I was hoping that this was not the case today, it was so close to the finish and start the next day it was almost too good to be true, the Sat Nav got us there with no problem and it was open, that was two big tick boxes filled. The final hurdle almost toppled us, despite presenting printed confirmation of the reservation, the original emails there still seemed to be an issue. I am not sure quite how Pete and I managed it but eventually, seemingly reluctantly took us to the room he had for us…mission accomplished!

Possibly the worst thing was seeing the proprietor try and do this to the next two parties to turn up, one pair gave up almost instantly and drove off in search of alternative accommodation, the other (a fellow snapper) did not give up so easily. One very heated phone call to booking.com it was finally sorted and had was allowed to have a room.

Thankfully the 2nd beer really toned down any potential awkwardness of watching this unfold knowing we had a bed for the night

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