Stage 18: Trie-sur-Baïse > Pau
Stage 18: Trie-sur-Baïse > Pau
Thursday, 26th July 2018
Thursday, 26th July 2018

Newfound celebrity

Since the last edition of Beardy’s Caravan things have gone a bit crazy. My semi-accidental image of a spectator trying to grab Geraint Thomas on the final climb of Stage 17, the Col du Portet, has gone viral , and while I ducked out for a quick spin before today’s stage, I had to pull over a number of times to field calls from various media outlets trying to get their hands on a copy of the photo. It’s amazing to think that despite all the hours of planning and preparation, it’s a random moment like this that captures everyone’s attention. I guess a picture really is worth a thousand words.

I wasn’t exactly looking forward to going back to the relative monotony of the flatlands after a couple of exciting mountain stages, especially after the excitement of my newfound fame and the now constant barrage of enquiries clogging up my email and social media. Luckily the parcours for Stage 18 – from Trie-sur-Baise to Pau – was pretty much a loop, with plenty of stops and cut-throughs on the agenda, and plenty of opportunities to create our own excitement. Álvaro would have a chance to connect with his inner Colin McRae , and I’d go back to my usual agenda of digging my nails into my palm and holding onto the oh sh*t handle for dear life.

Win a piece of Beardy McBeard’s roadside haul from the 2018 Tour de France

Hot Dub Wine Machine

Our first stop on the race route was near a bunch of vintage firetrucks and equipment – where had they been on Stage 6? I had a shot from inside one of the trucks all lined up and ready to go, but just before the peloton appeared, the old fellas started them up, vintage engines spluttering into life under clouds of black smoke. The smoke had just cleared when they cranked up the sirens and went on their merry way. With my ears ringing all the way to the next stop, I really hope the guys actually driving the trucks wear earplugs – but guessing by the way they didn’t flinch at the genuinely painful wailing, they’re probably deaf already.

Stop two was at the Côte de Madiran, the first of two cat-4 molehills that the peloton would be tackling on the stage. As we soon found out, it was also the site of a dance party in the grape vines. The boisterous locals had consumed enough of the fermented and bottled result of the produce surrounding them to not notice (or care) that it was genuinely sweltering. My beard was dripping with sweat just thinking about jumping around in the boiling Pyrenean sun, so when they tried to get me to participate I politely declined. In any other conditions, I can assure you I’m quite the dancer.

Can I see your ID?

Spot three for the day looked great in theory; I was hoping the crystal-clear lake would allow me to capture the riders reflected in the water. Now sometimes on the Tour, you have to bend the rules a little bit to get the shot – at least that’s what I told myself as I entered a lakeside property. It turns out that I’m not the only one with a somewhat cavalier attitude to property rights and trespass, as I was soon joined by a bunch of moto-photographers. The two ladies whose garden we were standing in were so overwhelmed by all of the people entering their property that they stopped twirling their flags and asked to see our credentials. Álvaro and I were already cutting it pretty fine, so I shot off a quick shot of the maillot jaune and made a discreet exit.

Monsieur Roadblock

Our next cut-through was very ambitious and we had no idea if we would make it or what we would find. Thankfully Álvaro’s skills are now honed to a razor-sharp point, and he got us there without even raising a sweat (mainly because I had the aircon set to 18 degrees).

Our progress soon came to a standstill as we found ourselves blocked by an official car, another photographer, and two team cars waiting at a roadblock to get off the course on the edge of a small town. The situation got very real, very quickly with the driver of the official car and the guy in charge of the roadblock yelling at each other and gesticulating wildly, looking like they were ready to start throwing fists.

Eventually we all got sick of waiting so we got out and started moving the barriers ourselves. This set off Monsieur Roadblock even more and he started kicking the barriers back in front of the cars. We managed to get through with the car undamaged, but still pulled up to park maybe a little further down the road than we might have done without the conflict. I still had to run back past him to get the shot in town.


After all the drama we decided it was time to call it a day and shoot the finish – five spots was plenty for a 170km stage. I recognised the last kilometres of the race into Pau as they were identical to last year’s stage which had finished in the same place, and even found out later that 2018 marked the 70th time Pau had hosted the Tour since it first visited in 1930.

When Demare came across the line first it was a long and lengthy celebration, the muscular Frenchman no doubt elated that all of his suffering off the back of the race, and sometimes off the back of the grupetto had been worth it. In anticipation of this, I posted myself a little further back than the other photographers and was right there, before the rest of the media scrum, when he came to a stop. Not to toot my own horn, but I think I’m getting the hang of this Tour de France thing.

This entire race, I haven’t seen anyone as happy to be on the podium as Demare – the win clearly meant a lot to him, and I can only imagine how he and the rest of France will react if he crosses the line first on the Champs. It was also great to see Luke Durbridge on the podium as the most combative rider of the day for his efforts in the breakaway. Mitchelton-Scott and the rest of the Aussies have had a tough go of it at this year’s Tour, so hopefully 2019 brings them a little more luck.
Stage 18: Trie-sur-Baïse > Pau
Teams Presentation
Stage 1: Noirmoutier-en-l'Île > Fontenay-le-Comte
Stage 2: Mouilleron-Saint-Germain > La Roche-sur-Yon
Stage 3, Team Time Trial: Cholet > Cholet
Stage 4: La Baule > Sarzeau
Stage 5: Lorient > Quimper


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