While researching today's stage 14 course route, we realised it ran past the Chateau we stayed in a month earlier whilst on assignment.
Remembering that in was on a spectacular road running through the Gorges du Tarn we knew it was our must-shoot location for the day.
There is an abundance of tunnels cut into the rock walls of the gorges and I wanted to use one of those in my images today.
After stopping and checking 3 different tunnel locations, I found one that had a great vantage point; all I had to do was climb up to it.
I scrambled up and was immediately excited. The outlook over the road was fantastic you could even see a little village on the opposite side of the river.
By this stage there were official cars starting to pass through. When they came out of the tunnel and saw me perched up high in from of them, I suspect they got a bit of a surprise.
I certainly attracted a lot of attention from the motorbike photographers. They all stopped to check out my spot before deciding it was too hard and shooting from the road was easier.
They all sped off and, as soon as the last rider had passed, I carefully climbed down trying not to knock any rocks down on the road below.
After the gorges it was straight to the finish via the race route, then, as the riders did a loop out around the town, we could shortcut across to beat them there.
On paper it would be tight; but that just seemed to be the case almost every day now. We just see how far we can push the limit to get as many great pics as possible.
Driving behind the race we met up with our mate the direction sign remover. We let him go past and do his thing – jumping out of the car, grabbing the signs, then getting back in and speeding off to catch the procession.
There was one climb to get over before we could take our detour to the finish and, unfortunately, it was a really nice location.
When researching the route we decided it wasn’t possible to shoot the gorges and the climb. Could have pushed harder – I will remember that for another day.
The finish today was up a brute of a hill, with an average gradient over 10%. Also, being a Saturday, it was really busy.
Driving up was a challenge as we had left it so late there was no visible road – just people in front of us. We honked the horn and slowly made our way through; amongst people yelling, tooting air horns and spraying water on the car.
At the 1km mark I jumped out and into the thick of it while Mrs McBeard drove to the parking at the top.
It must have been less than 10 minutes before the riders were approaching, not that you could see them through the wall of people.
But then a couple of motorbikes cut a path, revealing, amongst the hands and flags waving wildly, riders lumbering up this outrageous gradient.
Snapping away I noticed a group of guys in drag with plastic wigs and they were really getting in the riders’ faces.
I had just moved to the side when there was an altercation. One of the riders stopped and unclipped – sizing up one of the cross-dressers in a pink wig.
Luckily, the Gendarme was quick to intervene as I rushed to get a shot – but it was all over by the time I got there.
The riders had just past when one of the other photographers in a car pulled up and offered me a lift to the top – just in time to make the podium.
When we had been booking our accommodation there was nothing at all available in Mende and the closest place to the race route we could find was almost 100km away.
What we hadn’t taken into account was that it was also on the slowest, windiest road you could imagine.
Trying to do my work in the car as normal I had to keep looking out the window to avoid getting car sick.
On the plus side the road was beautiful, and part of the race route, so we could scope out some spots for tomorrow. Including this…
See beardy’s coverage of previous stages below.