Wet Wet Wet
Like all good things, my incredible run with good weather has come to an abrupt end. This sentence won’t completely make sense until I publish the bikepacking adventure I just completed in Scotland last week (coming soon). Needless to say, we had one-in-300-year weather over there, followed by a cloudless and (rather) warm start to my Swiss adventure. Still, what goes up inevitably comes down - and it was looking like the rain would be coming down hard today.
It started out ok. The skies were grey at the sign-on, and the stage got underway with only a couple of heavy drops falling. After stocking the Skoda with all the ingredients I would need for another round of dashboard delicacies, however, the heavens opened and it started pouring. I was glad to be in the car not out riding today.
Something from nothing
I pulled up at my first spot in the small town of Marthalen early, and patiently waited. I had scoped out a nice long shot down a small street, with the riders passing in the distance.
Over the last two stages, I have been singing the praises of the Tour de Suisse organisers, and how the smaller scale of the event affords such great access to the riders, teams, and course. However, today I discovered a major downfall to this less-heavy-handed approach; shorter rolling roadblocks. At the Tour and Giro, the roads are closed hours before the riders come past. This, naturally, takes a huge amount of resources and manpower so, instead, the Tour de Suisse organisers just send some motorbike scouts to block the roads, literally minutes before the race thunders through. In some ways this makes moving around, and gaining access to locations, much easier - but it also means a rogue car or three can turn up at the last minute and destroy a carefully planned and curated shot.
Forced to scuttle my original idea and, not having a plan B, I had to improvise, snapping away and hoping for the best. I was not feeling particularly happy with the results initially, however, on review I was relieved to find that I had managed to create at least something out of a bad situation.
Cat and mouse
The next spot was the one I was most excited about. I had found it while scouring the course on Google, looking for something a little different. There it was - a wooden bridge with a roof! The light streaming in from the sides was almost certain to create an interesting effect on the shot.
En route, I could see another press vehicle ahead. Not wanting to give away my spot, I hung back and crossed my fingers they would pass without stopping - and then not notice me pull over and double-back. There's only one thing better than a good shot and that's one no one else gets!
I continued to keep a low profile on the side of the road, just past the bridge, nibbling on a couple of morsels from the dashboard as I waited watching raindrops roll down the window. Once the photo-motos had passed, I knew it was safe to go back to the tunnel - which I would now have all to myself. The cat-and-mouse game proved fruitful, with the resulting shots more than making up for the disappointment of the earlier spot.
The Andorra incident
The next spot I had selected was over an hour away, driving into what was now a howling storm. When I arrived at the climb the rain had become so heavy that water was streaming back down the road.
I attempted to park on the side of the road, however the grass was now mud and the Skoda’s wheels began to spin straight away. Without a co pilot, and low on dashboard food, the last thing I wanted to do was get bogged and stuck there on my own. So I parked in a nearby driveway instead and walked back to the spot I had chosen. Luckily the rain had started to ease just a little.
The riders were doing a loop again, which meant that I could shoot them climbing, then drive over the top of the KOM and get another shot on the descent. I was joined by a bunch of fellow photographers and we set about deciding which angle we were each going to choose. I had two shots in mind; a close-up of the breakaway followed by a more landscape-esque shot of the peloton.
The skies opened again just as the riders were due to arrive. My shoes and shorts were instantly saturated. I hunched over my Olympus, protecting it from the deluge, and carefully wiped away any water droplets from the lens. I didn’t want a repeat of the Andorra incident, during the 2016 Tour de France, when heavy rain spoilt a cracking shot of the GC bunch.
A clean lens equalled clean shots. However, the same couldn’t be said about my feet!
Last shot of the day was the finish line and, for once, I arrived with plenty of time to spare (the riders still had one more lap to complete).
Just as well too - the finish line had, by now, lost its sense of serenity. The Critérium du Dauphiné had ended and the number of photographers had doubled! The ensuing tussle to get the best shot, however, was nothing compared to the sprint itself - as Sagan tried to headbut his way through. Fernando Gaviria collapsed to the curb, while Sonny Colbrelli saluted - and no doubt had a few words to say to Sagan afterwards.