2004 photo gallery
Up Close and Personal
By Graham R. Jones, December 2004
go to see the Tour de France you do not really see the race.
However visiting the
Tour brings a completely different
aspect to the Tour experience. For the millions of fans that
make the annual pilgrimage to this great event getting close
to the action and their hero’s is a major attraction. Here
CyclingRevealed captures the essence of the Tour through photo
galleries that give you the flavor of this great event.
Tour photographers focus on the riders and their entourage.
Yet every day of the race upwards of one million spectators
the roads. Fans from around the world as well as many unusual
and sometimes exotic personalities such as ‘the devil’ line
the race route. At times the crowds can be overwhelming and somewhat
unruly. With so many people being literally inches away from
the riders their natural anxiety makes for nervous times. Lance
Armstrong and others have had fears of an incident for years.
The memory of Eddy Merckx being punched in 1975 by a drunken
fan still makes riders wary. However on the whole, the fans respect
the peloton and the race usually cruises its way through the
masses without incident.
numerous opportunities to make contact with the riders and
other well known race personalities.
Sometimes it takes a
lot of effort to get to the right place at the right time.
Having gotten to where you want to be, the next important thing
act like an intelligent human being. This may sound strange
but confronting well known people is a skill in and of itself.
the ‘meetings’ are at times when hundreds of people
are milling around, shoving and pushing to get near their hero’s.
Many fans tend to act like idiots. They become ‘star struck’ and
simply lose any sense of courtesy or common sense. My approach
is to be ready with something intelligent to say and to totally
avoid shoving something at your poor victim to sign. Also, one
needs to sense when it is time to express appreciation for the
chat and quietly move on.
most of the Tour personalities welcome the chance to chat and,
as I discovered, many of them
would love to get
copies of the photos that we all take. Being at the center
of attention they rarely get to collect ‘memorabilia’ for
It is possible
to meet quite a few of the riders and the ‘rest
days’ present some of the best opportunities. For example
on July 12 in Limoges I visited the hotel housing Phonak and
Lotto. While milling around the team vehicles I noticed Rick
Verbrugghe (Lotto) casually sitting on the tail gate of his team
equipment truck as the mechanic worked on the bikes. I asked
him how the race was going. His response was that it was one
of the most dangerous races that he had ever ridden. The normal
first week Tour nervousness was enhanced through bad roads, bad
weather and dangerous riding. He was looking forward to the relative
calm of the mountains. I asked what had happened on Stage 6 when
a huge number of the peloton hit the deck right under the ‘flamme
rouge’ (1km to go). His explanation was that Andrej Hauptmann
clipped the curb to the sidewalk, fell sideways and sparked a
domino effect. Thanking Rick I asked if he minded me taking his
picture to which he gladly agreed and then as I turned to leave
he said that I could catch up with Axel Merckx in the hotel restaurant!!
And that was how I managed to capture a great informal shot of
Axel. Unfortunately he was in deep conversation with his team
companions so I left him in peace even though I was itching to
chat with him.
Out on the
open road you can only hope to see brief snatches of the race
itself, but with good prior planning you
the experience. During a time trial choose a long open stretch
of road. In the mountains aim for an area with a great view
down the slopes so that you can see the race winding it’s way
up to you. Especially in the mountains, it is necessary to set
out many hours before the race arrives in order to reach the
optimal viewing area. The police are extremely effective at shutting
down the roads. Two, and sometimes three hours before the race
arrives even cyclists and walkers are banned from the course.
My preference in the mountains is to get to within 1.5km or so
from the summit of major climbs. If it is a mountain top finish
this is usually where the most brutal efforts are being made.
Depending on the local geography, the road will either be cordoned
off with barriers or the crowd will spill on to the road leaving
just a slim passage for the riders. The Tourmalet and Plateau
de Bielle had no barriers until the final couple of km’s.
It is in these places that the Tour experience reaches fever
pitch. The TV images of these locations ‘sanitize’ the
atmosphere. Believe me, it is a mad house when you are actually
there and you are only inches away from the greatest athletes
in the world. In contrast this year the final km’s of Alpe
d’Huez ITT were hermetically sealed with barriers. So if
you execute good prior planning and choose well, you will be
rewarded with a fantastic experience.
than life’. To be there is an
experience not to be missed by any cycle racing fan. Having access
to people we only normally only read about or see on the TV,
adds a completely new dimension to this great event. Finally,
the icing on the cake is the terrain, culture and people of the
countries that a race passes through. Strangely, although the
whole thing is played out in public places and the wide open
countryside, the sum of the experience is very intimate.
we present a photo album focusing on the riders and their entourage.
In the next edition of CyclingRevealed we will look
at some of the crowds that turn out in their millions to see
the Tour live.
the November Table of Contents