Parking in the pike position
Today, we hit the wall. No doubt about it, stage 8 was the hardest day of our Tour de France chasing mission so far. After a flat stage yesterday, I was hardly jumping with joy about doing another. But I was a man on a mission - the unfortunate events of Friday 13 had made for a lean day behind the lens, and I had an ambitious plan of shooting 5 spots to make up for it.
Don Álvaro’s parking has become more and more creative as the Tour goes on. I’d give today’s spot at the start in Dreux a 4 out of 5, as it included both a 45 degree angle, and a mounting of the curb, with one of the ŠKODA’s wheels teetering precariously on the edge.
I managed to capture some nice portraits of Romain Bardet (as well as some Bora monkey business with a banana), meaning we could call our visit to the start a success and still get a head start on finding our first spot.
Continuing the primate theme... The Château d'Anet is an incredible building, commissioned in the 16th century in the Renaissance style by Henri II for his favourite, Diane de Poitiers. The only problem was that all the other photographers seemed to have beat us there.
Not wanting to give up this amazing location without a fight, I did my best to find another angle. A bus shelter across the road looked like it might do the trick. I waited until the nearby Gendarme’s back was turned, then scrambled up as nimbly as a spider monkey.
Unfortunately, the Gendarme spotted me shortly after and told me sternly to come down. He spoke English, so I tilted my beard to its most charming angle, and attempted to negotiate. Either my bearded charm worked a treat or he was feeling lazy because after sincerely promising not to break the roof or fall on the children below, I was allowed to stay.
We had parked outside the race course today in the hope of a quick escape. It seemed to work and we were on our way to our second spot without delay – so far, so good.
The day goes downhill
Unfortunately, the next location wasn’t really worth the effort, so we switched gears to location three. However, with a huge gap between the breakaway and the main bunch, staying ahead (whilst still shooting the peloton) was going to be a problem. I think the peloton was treating this stage as another rest day before the tough stuff on tomorrow’s Roubaix cobbles.
Sure enough, things started to go downhill from there. We arrived at the next crossing point of the course just after the break, meaning we couldn’t make it through. Some creative improvisation got us there in the end, but then the same thing happened at the next location.
We drove around in circles trying every possible side street, but the officials had been too thorough for us this time – every entry point to the course was blocked with concrete, beyond even Alvaro’s curb mounting abilities.
It felt like one of those surreal dreams where you’re trapped in a repeating loop of the same scenery, searching endlessly for something (in this case, an escape) but never quite finding it.
What seemed like years later and miles away, we made it back onto the race course just in time to exit again to take the highway to the finish.