And so we finally arrive at the Tour de France! And given the countless complications imposed by the global pandemic, just being at the start in Nice was a huge accomplishment. But it was a strange start, to say the least, as the city was practically empty of fans. And in many ways it wasn’t until we reached the Pyrenees that I started to experience what I describe as Tour fever.
And I certainly felt it here, during the eighth stage which ended the race at the Col de Peyresourde, the last climb of the day. No cars or campers were allowed to go up, but that didn’t stop the fans from walking or biking themselves, and I really liked the vibe. It was a kind of smoother, gentler mountain stage in the Tour, less focused on camping and beer and more simply cycling.
There were plenty of lookout points in the last few miles to the top as the road was switchbacks providing top notch views for fans. And this is where I chose to work. But while the views offered some terrific panoramic shots of the peloton, my best shot of the day was practically an afterthought.
Long after the race leaders had passed, I spotted the polka dot jersey heading for the top. French rider Benoit Cosnefroy donned the distinctive jersey awarded to the top climber earlier in the week. But if he did manage to get into the early breakaways and rack up a lot of points in the early climbs, he was often abandoned in the final climb – a classic tactic to win such a prize.
But Cosnefroy appreciated this moment by climbing the last kilometers. And as I followed him with my camera passing by, he suddenly raised his arms in unison with the crowd. It was one of my last shots of the day, and by far the best, as it captures the kind of communion between riders and fans that sets this sport apart from so many others.