After my cameras had a proper soaking on yesterday's stage, I made sure I dried them the best i could. But as I went to shoot my first frame, and the camera died, I was more than a little concerned.
I thought back to the lesson I learnt at the Giro and removed the batteries, before turning the camera on and off several times. It roared back to life, and I was more than a little relieved :)
The plan for today was to shoot near the start so we could shoot two spots, plus the start and finish.
I wasn’t specifically planning on shooting a sunflower field, but, when we started to pass a number of them, I thought this might be my one and only chance. Plus, I’d never checked out a sunflower field before.
The first field we stopped at already had photographers walking through the fields, their heads only just visible above the heads of the big yellow flowers.
The flowers in the second field were not facing the right way, and their heads were bowed and sad-looking
But I could make work the third field work.
As I walked through the field I noticed they surprisingly rough leaves with the texture of sandpaper, the heads were also crawling with bees. I gently brushed them off to try to get them to move along.
The next location was the town of Ambialet, on the river Tarn. The sun was really beating down when we arrived and as I stepped out of the car the road surface was sticky with melting tar. The temperature from the car said it was 41 degrees. Unlike yesterday, it didn’t look like a cool change was on the horizon to cool us down.
I took shelter in a tunnel cut through the rock. Above it sat a little church. The temperature was bearable in the tunnel and I planned to shoot the breakaway there, with a wider shot outside for the peloton.
My peaceful, shady resting spot was soon a deafening amphitheatre as the precession of cars ahead of the riders thundered through, thinking it prudent and/or necessary to blare their horns as they entered the tunnel.
There was only a four minute gap between the breakaway and the peloton. So, after getting some shots in the tunnel, I made a run back to the entrance of the tunnel, then up and around to get a shot from above.
Another important lesson that was learnt yesterday, with our near miss of the finish, was that, in order to not lose valuable time, you really need to get back on course as soon as the ‘Fin de Course’ police van roars past. AND you need to stay as close as you can to that van, or the other cars ahead. Otherwise the road gets covered with spectators who are all heading back to their cars.
Today this proved more difficult than it should otherwise have been, as the vehicle ahead was the one in charge of pulling down all the yellow direction arrows along the way.
He was stopping and starting so rapidly we almost ran up the back of his vas as he jammed on the brakes.
We tried to get around him, but, just moments later, he’d speed past, drop in front of us and stop to pull down more signs. We decided that it would be easier to simply sit behind him until we could get off the course. At least he had an official horn to clear the road ahead.
Once again it was a gamble as to whether we’d actually make it to the finish in time. To cut the suspense, we did – but this was helped by the fact that the riders were not going as fast predicted.
All the photographer’s cars were parked, but there wasn’t a soul around. We were nowhere near the finish and I wasn’t sure which way to go.
There was supposed to be a shuttle bus making regular runs over the 1km gap between the press parking to the finish. Just then a white van pulled in and I though this was my ride, right on time. But it wasn’t, he was just parking there too. I followed the signs, running up 3 or 4 flights of stairs, in the heat, with all my gear.
I waited a couple of minutes for the bus but it didn’t seem to be coming, so instead, without knowing how much longer the riders would be, I started walking and then jogging. My legs felt tired after yesterday’s 4km mountain jog but I wasn’t going to miss the finish because of a late bus!
I got to the finish and, because I was so late, there was nowhere to setup. I tried squeezing in between two huge lenses without luck and was told to move in front of the stairs that had been erected to one side of the photographer’s zone. Perfect – this spot was much better.
I had made it with less than 10 minutes to spare.
See beardy’s coverage of previous stages below.