The race within the race
Part of the joy of shooting races like the Tour de France is the challenge of getting more spots than my fellow photographers, proving the classic photography proverb ‘It’s not just the size of your lens, it’s how you use it that counts’
The start of stage 2 in Mouilleron-Saint-Germain became the site of an unscheduled photographers meeting, where we all laid down our cards. Phone apps, maps, and GPS programs were compared, and before I knew it my original plan of shooting 4 spots had become 5 - a tall order for a stage of only 182.5km.
At this point the thought that I may have bitten off more than I could chew did pass my mind, but my bearded honour was now at stake. Time to put my money shots where my mouth...ahem, that line got away from me a little.
Getting out of town after shooting the start has become more and more difficult with increased security in recent years. Despite parking the ŠKODA in a carefully thought out escape route, we returned to discover most of the side roads were now blocked with huge chunks of stage 2 cement. Starting to feel like rats in a maze, we tried a second route and found another dead end. Was our 5-photo-spot cheese already a lost cause? Perplexed, we found freedom with our third time lucky. Team McBeardy was still in the running!
Rats against the machine
With 4 different towns to photograph, we couldn’t afford to get caught in another rat trap. Channelling the historic counter-revolutionary spirit of the Vendee region (home to a peasant uprising which claimed over 240,000 lives in the 1790’s), we devised a cunning guerrilla method of entering each town from the outskirts and navigating to the race course, while steering well clear of the chaos of the centre and its momentum-crushing cement road blocks. As it was, we were cutting it so fine we had mere moments to set up before the riders rode through.
At one point Alvaro said wistfully that we should book shoulder massages, because the tension of living on the edge of disaster makes you hunch over the steering wheel like Quasimodo. I mentally added ‘shoulder rubs’ to my revised version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, where sadly internet access and coffee come before sleep, decent meals and massages until the Tour is over.
Finish line frenzy
By the time we arrived at the finish in La Roche-sur-Yon (proudly re-hosting the Tour after an 80-year hiatus), there were so many of my competitor photographers packed on the finish line, I couldn’t find a decent spot.
Quickly tossing up my options, I decided there were surely enough people shooting the finish already, so I’d risk my luck seeing if I could find something interesting further back near the soigneurs.
Sadly I missed Peter Sagan celebrating his win, as he was surrounded by a white-clad wrestling squad of race officials that quickly ushered him away. Word on the street was they were not to be messed with after some argy-bargy went down yesterday in the media scrum.
My disappointment faded as I stumbled across 3rd place getter Arnaud Démare on the verge of collapse. After being sprayed down with a cooling mist and chugging two bottles of water, he looked much closer to human again.