Stage 1: Mont Saint-Michel – Utah Beach
Stage 1: Mont Saint-Michel – Utah Beach
Saturday, 2nd July 2016
Saturday, 2nd July 2016

Today marked the beginning of my second year covering Le Tour de France. After a baptism of fire last year, and a surprisingly smooth team presentation yesterday, I felt well-armed with a quiver full of tricks and an savant-like insight into the mysterious workings of the race. I was ready for Stage 1.

Feeling overly-confident and caffeinated, Dan - aka ‘Speedy’, my trusty sidekick for this adventure - and I made great time for a well organised, and early, arrival at the grand depart. However, our very best efforts were no match for the juggernaut of seemingly endless sponsor floats. We were stuck with nothing better to do than ponder why the giant chicken float crossed the road...

We eventually managed to get moving, walking towards Mont Saint-Michel amongst hordes of tour enthusiasts and general souvenir hunters.

Locations like Mont Saint-Michel are a photographer’s dream. Sometimes it feels like you could shoot a magical backdrop like this with the lens cap on and somehow still get your shot...

So, with one guaranteed shot in the bag, I tried for a second shot as the riders came back along the causeway. This happened to be a designated toilet stop for the riders, and I soon found myself near some of the heavy-hitters as they hoisted up their bib leg and did what came naturally.

After a mad dash to the car, followed by an obligatory traffic jam, we made it to our second spot of the race, just ahead of the break-away. As it turned out that we weren’t the only ones who picked this spot, however everyone was equally disappointed with the resulting vista. The tide had receded back further than a nearby fan’s hairline, leaving only clumps of smelly seaweed.

The curse of the Caravan struck again at Sainte-Marie-du-Mont and we were once again stuck in a sea of traffic, with nowhere to move. However, this time we were on the actual course and needed to get moving pronto. Fortunately the Jean-Claude-Van-Dammeries knew they needed the press convoy out of the way and we quickly found ourselves parked and running for the finish line. Time was of the essence so I took a shortcut through the tv compound. I had to keep moving regardless of how many cables I tripped over and video feeds I cut.

At the finish line, I found myself competing not only with the other pro-photographers, but with selfie-stick-wielding fans thrusting their phones into my shot. It wasn’t easy for my 6ft frame, but I managed to get low enough so that Cavendish’s head wasn’t obscured by an offending iDevice.

After surviving the Manx Missile’s media mosh pit, I then had to face the scrum around what should have been a solemn ceremony commemorating the D-Day landings. It seems this site is prone to conflict, with media from a number of nations aggressively arguing and almost coming to blows. I managed to dodge a whack to the head from a French TV broadcast camera, however Bernard ‘The Badger’ Hinault was caught in the crossfire, sustaining a blow of Japanese precision-optical glass right to the head. He turned to me and gave me a look I thought was only reserved for Greg Lemond...

See beardy’s coverage of previous stages below.
Stage 21: Chantilly - Paris Champs Élysées
Stage 17: Berne - Finhaut-Emosson


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