I went up to Dinan to have a look at the depart of the Tour de France stage as the race left Brittany for Lisieux in Normandy. Again, I got some great shots but have been battling with rural internet connection speeds and don’t have the photos online yet- to come. For the meantime I wanted to share my thoughts and observations from the stage start, which was more interesting than I expected.
I arrived a couple of hours in advance of the start and was keen to watch the teams and riders warming up and getting organised, rather than looking at the actual start, where they roll out slowly in neutralised fashion. I wandered around trying to find my way into the inner circle, and decided to follow a fan with shaved legs and bulging calves.
The ‘village’ was a closed affair but I got to the team car/bus area, behind the start line. A few people were hopping the barrier and I decided to chance it, elongating the lens to its full length and taking the occasional note so as I might pass for a journo. There was no need though, as the gendarmes didn’t bother, and as long as you didn’t take liberties, you seemed to be quite free to wander around the square and get close.
The first thing I noticed was Hushovd’s bikes: which will it be today- World Champion’s or yellow jersey livery? Nice problem to have.
I loitered around the Garmin bus, hoping to see some riders, but nobody was coming out until much closer the start. There seemed to be a few WAGs hanging around: “there’s Tyler” (though the bus window) “he said to come in” … but they didn’t get in the bus. Maybe just fans or hangers-on.
JV was doing some interviews but nothing much was happening so I went over to the Sky bus. Boassen Hagen was out, talking to the press in his friendly and cheerful way. He went on to win the stage- must have been feeling good from the start.
I laughed at myself: the pro snappers right in the face of the rider with a short lens, me hovering at a distance with 200-300mm, not wanting to get in the way.
I spoke to the Team Sky superfans (sorry I didn’t catch your name), who were guests of Rod Ellingworth (I think), who is a clubmate back at Manchester Velo. Lovely people, who have followed Sky passionately from the start, and deservedly get their fair share of newspaper coverage.
Another keen young female fan got a kiss from Ben Swift. That made her day I think. He was out signing autographs and chatting, ever the approachable star.
Thomas was around too, also pretty open. Wiggins also doing TV and print interviews, but once they were finished, he had the serious face back on- still signing and talking to fans but much more guarded and withdrawn than some of the others. “Good luck today- stay upright” I said. I hope that was not a jinx for the following day. Real shame that he is out.
The contrast with Rigoberto Uran was marked- only two Colombian journalists around him and no fans- unlike the other Sky riders. Chatting and jovial with them- very familiar, unlike the team leader who is constantly harrassed by all sorts of media.
A shower 25 minutes before start time- riders scramble back to the buses for wet weather gear- but it’s stopped almost as soon as it has started and the sun is back out.
I was surprised to see so few guys out warming up, only the smaller teams like Vacansoleil and Saur were pedalling around. Presumably guys who were targeting the day’s break.
As the riders rolled off to the start, I managed to clock the yellow jersey riding off, and got a few snaps. Unfortunately didn’t see Millar, which I had hoped to.
Elsewhere there were big crowds around the Saxo and Leopard buses- the big names were not coming out until the last minute. Cancellara appeared, getting his saddle checked- I’m not sure if the ‘saddle angle rule’ also applies to road bikes or if this was a team mechanic making a routine adjustment. ‘Das ist besser’ he said- probably the latter.
As soon as all the riders were massed at the start, the cars and buses were off. In minutes the bustling square was totally dead.
Finally, a mention to Team Jack who chatted to me at the end. These 4 guys were recognisable at the side of the road in their Union Flag jerseys, and copped free podium hats (in ‘rainforest’ green) from the team bus in return for their support. They came from Downton near Salisbury, and will be back in future years- keep an eye out.