The RoadBook

Maps, routes, time tables, sponsor info, and all the other behind the scenes info about chasing bike races with a camera.

Stage Transfers

After some technical difficulties with the website, and a long transfer from Morzine to Chantilly tonight, I'm a bit behind on being able to upload stage updates. But don't you worry - Stages 19 and 20 are waiting in the wings, and the finale in Paris never disappoints!

Also, if you didn't get the memo, Stage 20 involved mountains and a whole lot of rain. Can't wait for the complete post. Now, it's time to drive a bunch of hours.

Stage 18 - Sallanches to Mègeve (ITT)

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After yesterday’s dumb maneuvers dragging myself up the climb to Emosson, I took things a bit easier today. Which the first smart thing I’ve done in a while, because today was hot. Not like HOT hot, but at ~30°C (that’s 86°+ F) all day, it was definitely hot enough to slow cook your brain sous vide style. How the riders managed to warm up is beyond me, even with copious use of fans, ice, and cooling vests.

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After wandering the team paddocks long enough, it was a brief stop at the start house to catch fans, final pep talks, and final moments before riders began ~30 minutes of hurt.


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Then, off to the course - to the Côte de Domancy, specifically. The climb came early in the TT course, but Côte would nonetheless immediately separate wheat from chaff – only 2.5k long, but a leg searing 9.4% average grade, and that’s BEFORE the course climbs an additional 400m. Ouch.


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And at last, the finish for the GC leader group


So many pain faces. So many varieties:  

 

Stage 17 – Bern to Finhaut-Emosson

Woof. This stage was HARD on everyone, not just the riders. A tricky parcours made following the race difficult, with very limited options for leapfrogging from one part on course to the next. Oh, AND the riders were FLYING for the first hour, putting them well ahead of scheduled pace. AND it was a summit finish with super limited parking, further complicating things.

Things started off well enough, with bits of bikes, bike checks, and Switzerland lookin’ real nice.

But after the landscape shot is where things started to go sideways. See those riders dangling off the front? That was a breakaway attempt. Normal enough. Apparently, such attempts happened all morning, and it took ~70km for the break to finally stick. Less normal.  All that hammering put the pack a full 10 minutes ahead of even the fastest time. Which meant that my but doable transfer back to the course was just out of reach. I arrived to the course in time to see the leaders pass… great.

Unable to get ahead of the course to shoot at the next exit point, I hung onto the back of the caravan until my exit, then it was straight off to the climb to Emosson. Organization warned us of narrow roads and very limited parking at the Emosson dam, and that if we were to arrive solo by car, we would not be allowed up the climb. So, no go for me and Le Jeep. Luckily shuttles would be provided. Unluckily, they would only run up the climb until 3pm, when the race was scheduled to finish around 5pm.

Luckily, despite time setbacks, my trajectory put me at the designated parking before 3pm! Unluckily, that trajectory overlapped with the publicity caravan, and stuck me behind it.

I was not, in fact, going to make the shuttle.

I parked and ran back to the course, desperately scanning for any other journalists who were carpooling that I could beg for a ride. Just cars of officials, team cars, sponsor cars already filled with people: nobody that could help me.

I should have probably just stayed put – parking was even near a downhill hairpin. I could have made that work. I could have walked a little to the first block of fans I encountered and shot there. No. That would be a reasonable way to cut losses. Not for me. Somehow, “walk up the 10k climb with all your gear, in blazing heat and direct sun, for as long as you can until the riders get to you” seemed like a good idea.

Spoiler alert: not a good idea.

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I marched up the climb, intermittently checking the time, and checking with fans to see if they knew how far until the summit,or how far until the riders arrived. With each time I asked, it felt as though the time interval was longer, but the distance covered got shorter.

At one point, I asked “how many k until the summit?”
“6”
A moment later, I asked another fan.
“7?”
Maybe they were mis-informed? Maybe I was just delirious? Maybe I was in the twilight zone?

I ran out of water. I marched on.

I made it until ~4k to go until the riders caught me. Nowhere in particular, no real background, no real planning in composition, I shot the best I could with the awful conditions I had put myself in. Most of these guys looked how I felt.

After the riders passed, I finally saw a glimmer of hope: the broom wagon! Thankfully, they stopped to let me in and were super cool about it. Thanks, broom wagon. After a moment, though, I realized the odd gravity of the broom wagon: this is where you go when you’re out of other options. I certainly was.

The only difference is that I can ride in the broom wagon, and still continue on tomorrow…

Tomorrow: More TT action, on a very climby 17km course from Sallanches to Mègeve.

Stage 15 – Bourg-en-Bresse to Culoz

A tough route for the riders today, with virtually zero sections of flat road up until the finish loop into Culoz. However, for a photographer, this was my easiest day of travel so far. From the start, the plan was easy – go to the Col du Berthiand, then to the Grand Colombier. Even with the rather Giro d’Italia styled loop back up the Lacets de Grand Colombier, I had reconned where I wanted to shoot, and already stitched together a route. But did the pictures work out?... we’ll see.

At the start, business as usual:

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Once at the Col du Berthiand, I parked my car at the top and scouted for an angle.

High?

 

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Not really high enough.  

Low? 

 

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Not really low enough. 

Near? 

 

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Never got the framing quite right.  

Far? 

 

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Far will do. I guess.  

Ah well, can’t win them all. On the plus side, as I was sprinting back up the climb to the car, the broom wagon saw me and made the universal “#getinthevan!” gesture. I happily obliged, catching a lift up the last several hundred meters of the climb and getting to the Grand Colombier that much sooner.

 

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And man, was the Grand Colombier nuts. So many fans, packed incredibly tight. After “running-gate” on Ventoux, I was a little concerned for the riders – these roads seemed tighter than Ventoux, with just as many fans.


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Thankfully, the crowd cooperated today, and the atmosphere was fantastic!


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In the distance, Mont Blanc, which will feature as a stage finish in a few days at stage 19. 

In the distance, Mont Blanc, which will feature as a stage finish in a few days at stage 19. 

Ok ok. The images were getting there.  

Finally, once cleared by the commisaires, it was a quick jaunt down the mountain to the Lacets de Grand Colombier. Again, I parked near the summit, and began to wander down the climb to catch the leaders.


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Meanwhile, soigneurs. Some of them chill.

 

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Some of them definitely calm, but far more intense. Also, is that Hank Scorpio?

 

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As riders continued to stream past, I got individual shots of them. One by one. In small groups. With a leafy green background. Maybe with errant fans. Nothing to write home about though. Given the tree cover, I had a little something in mind, but the conditions weren’t quite right. Yet.

I walked back up the climb, shooting intermittently, waiting for the right moment. As I reached the KOM, the planets aligned (well, planet. Earth.), and I was rewarded with a few moments of the sun in juuuuust the right spot.

 

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I'd say it worked out.  

 

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Yep. Definitely worked out.  

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Rest Day 2: Bern, Switzerland

Ohthankbabyjesus, it's a rest day. Time to clean the sweat off of my cameras, remove the pile of empty Vittel water bottles from my car, and do some laundry. Also maybe address some sunburn and try to Amazon-Prime a replacement battery for my radio to meet me in France. 

Not a lot of shooting scheduled for today. Instead, relaxing and putting together a week-2 recap post for In The Crosshairs, so look for that soon!