Charcuterie is the best start to the day
At 65km, Stage 17 of the 2018 Tour de France was the shortest standard stage of the Tour in 30 years, making it a short day in the office for me too – and another opportunity to get out on my Giant TCR! Fuelled by last night’s Spanish feast (we were staying just over the border in Spain), I made it up yesterday’s final climb, the Col de Portillon. I took a moment at the top to soak in the incredible views. Stripped of the hordes of spectators, it was hard to believe it was even the same place.
We’d been instructed that if we shot the start in Bagnères-de-Luchon, there was no way we could make it to the finishing climb in time. So we enjoyed a proper Spanish breakfast before heading directly for the finish near Saint-Lary Soulan, the biggest Pyrenees ski resort.
What this stage lacked in length, it made up for in height, with Col de Portet providing the highest summit of this year’s Tour. Knowing that the riders would be soon be charging full steam up the mountain made our telecabin ride feel even more relaxing, like floating on a rather clanky, swaying cloud.
Back on solid ground, I began hiking around looking for the best angles. The romantically foggy clouds hanging overhead looked ready to engulf the road at any moment. My fellow photographers predicted direly that this would most likely happen the moment the riders came into sight.
I found a perfect high spot with a nicely framed view of the course. Just as a ripple of excitement marked the first signs of action, the fog dropped down right on cue. Fortunately it wasn’t as thick as I had feared, and I could still make out the tiny figure of Colombian Nairo Quintana making his break for glory. I quickly snapped away before moving to the barriers for the next riders.
With such a small window to make their mark today, it was full gas for every rider. I shuddered in sympathy watching them grovel past, but must admit to having a chuckle at some of the ‘pain face’ pictures later.
The Don and I made a cunning plan to leave before the podium ceremonies finished to escape the traffic. Feeling pretty good for having escaped some bumper-to-bumper, we promptly, and predictably, got stuck in the mother of all traffic jams. Looks like our clever idea wasn’t so great after all.
I made the most of our jam by flicking through the images in the car. I paused, shocked. What the heck was this? A spectator reaching out to try and pull Geraint Thomas off his bike?! Fortunately, he didn’t manage to bring him down, though not for lack of trying. Good boy scout that I am, I sent the images to the race organisers. May his comeuppance be swift and fairly unpleasant.