We had to be out of the hotel by 11am this morning, so, with nowhere else to go, we decided to be really early to the start line for stage 9; the team time trial. Given the race didn't start until 3pm, none of the riders would be out for hours - meaning we had time to walk the first part of the course and look for locations.
Today's plan had us staying in the starting town of Vannes for the stage. Once the race started we would have limited options to move, so we needed to make sure we had some great shots lined up.
We started walking along the course as the various cars, vans and music that make up the publicity caravan came past.
Packets of lollies, key rings and hats were being thrown from the passing parade, most of which seemed to be aimed squarely at our heads.
After ducking and weaving past most of the barrage (and wearing a few hits for the team), we made it to the old city walls of the town and surrounding gardens. We found a good, elevated location to shoot the riders with the wall as the backdrop.
With over an hour still to wait we decided to head back to the start line by way of the Tour de France Village.
There was a banquet of food inside, which is free if you have a media pass. Once inside I got a whiff of what was on offer and couldn’t believe we hadn’t been snacking here every stage.
After the biggest cheese and ham toastie I had ever seen, and a handful of bite size salami slices, it was back to work.
As we returned to the starting area there were plenty of time trial bikes on display, but few riders. They generally only come out to warm-up about 45 minutes before they are due to race.
We photographed who we could but, by then, the first team, a depleted Orica GreenEDGE, had already rolled down the start ramp.
Hastily, we took our pre-navigated course away from the congestion of the race route and back to the old city walls.
It was much busier than before, but, luckily, with a number of spots already in the bank, we didn’t need to mess around looking for angles – and got straight to business.
We covered off all the spots and then decided to walk a bit more of the course to find some extras.
Just around the next corner was a good spot, but it required getting as low to the ground as possible.
I was sitting on the ground as the riders came into view, before lying down and resting the camera on the ground.
This caused considerable interest with a couple of nearby onlookers, especially a French kid sitting next to me.
I could tell he was trying to see the screen of the camera, so, in the next gap between teams I clicked through some frames to show him what I had been shooting.
From then on, every time I photographed a team he wanted to see the results.
When he was happy with the shot he nodded his head looking pleased with the outcome. He had a pretty good eye!
I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if this kid becomes a high-flying art director, looking over photographer’s shoulders while they sweat it out trying the get the shot.
Once the last team has passed I said au revoir to my new mate. His parents asked me about the photos and I gave them the details to the Caravan. If you are reading this, I hope he approves of the photos!
With that in mind – I hope you are enjoying the photos also. With the first week-and-a-bit (9 stages) of the 2015 Tour de France done, we will be rewarded with a 700km drive tomorrow. Let’s call it a rest day.
See beardy’s coverage of previous stages below.