What's Cool In Road Cycling

TOUR’15 St.13: PHOTO Report!

Roadside Stage 13:  Photog Beardy McBeard’s daily plan takes a turn for the better when his drowned camera comes back to life, and the melting tar doesn’t melt his spirit to capture the roadside sights of this Tour de France.  And he even gets his first sunflower shot – things are looking up…

 

– Photos & Words by Marcus Enno –

After my cameras had a proper soaking on yesterday’s stage I made sure I dried them the best I could. But I was more than a little concerned when I went to shoot my first frame and the camera died.  Then I remembered a lesson I learned at the Giro, so I removed the batteries and turned the camera on and off. It leapt back to life and relief washed over me.

The plan for today was to shoot near the start so we could shoot two spots plus the start and finish.

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I wasn’t specifically planning to shoot a sunflower field but when we started to pass a number of them I thought my first chance might be my one and only.  At the first field there were already photographers walking throughout the fields, their heads just above the heads of the big yellow flowers.  The second field’s flowers were not facing the right way and their heads were bowed and sad looking but the third I could make work.

As I walked through the field I noticed their surprisingly rough leaves with the texture of sandpaper, the heads were also crawling with bees. I gently brushed them off to get them to move along.

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The next location was the town of Ambialet on the river Tarn. The sun was really beating down when we arrived and as I stepped out of the car the road surface was sticky with melting tar. The temperature from the car said it was 41 degrees. There definitely didn’t look like yesterday’s cool change was on the horizon.

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I took shelter in a tunnel cut through the rock and above it sat a little church. The temperature was bearable in the tunnel and I planned to shoot the breakaway there with a wider shot outside for the peloton.

My peaceful resting spot was soon a deafening amphitheatre as the precession of cars ahead of the riders and thought it necessary to honk their horns as they entered the tunnel.  As there was a four minute gap between the breakaway and the peloton after getting a shot there I made a run for the entrance of the tunnel and ran up and around to get a shot from above.

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Another important lesson that was learned yesterday with our near miss of the finish, was that in order not to lose valuable time you need to get back on course as soon as the ‘Fin de Course’ police van comes past. AND you need to stay as close as you can to that van or the other cars ahead. Otherwise the road gets covered with spectators who are all heading back to their cars.

Today this proved harder than it should have been as the vehicle ahead was the one in charge of pulling down all the yellow direction arrows.  He was stopping and starting so rapidly we almost ran up the back of his vas as he jammed on the brakes.

We’d veer round him and moments later he’d speed past and stop to pull down more signs. We decided that it was just a case of waiting behind him until we could get off the course. At least he had an official horn to clear the road ahead.

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It was another gamble on whether we’d actually make it to the finish. We did it but it was helped by the fact that the riders were not going as fast predicted. All the photographers’ cars were parked but there wasn’t a soul around. We were nowhere near the finish and I wasn’t sure which way to go.

There was suppose to be a shuttle bus making regular runs of the 1km between the press parking to the finish. Just then a white van pulled in and I thought this was my ride, just in time. But no, he was just parking there too. I followed the signs, running up 3 or 4 flights of stairs, in the heat, with all my gear.

I waited a couple of minutes for the bus but it didn’t seem to be coming so instead without anyway of knowing how much longer the riders would be I started walking and then jogging. My legs felt tired after yesterday’s 4km mountain jog but I wasn’t going to miss the finish because of a late bus.

I got to the finish and because I was so late there was nowhere to setup. I tried squeezing in between two huge lenses but no dice I was told to move in front of the stairs that had been erected to one side of the photographers zone. Perfect, this spot was much better.

I made it with less than 10 minutes to spare.

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