It was a real thrill to hear the words “would you like to shoot some paid photography for Cycling Victoria this season?” I’ve been chasing this particular whale for over a year now, and especially so over the second half of 2015, with a number of ‘pro-bono’ shoots of juniors and masters track cycling during the tail end of the winter season of the Cycling Victoria (CV) calendar. That “yes” tumbled out of me like a shot – I’m actually getting to combine two passions of mine: cycling and photography, and get paid at the same time!
My first real paid, pro-level cycling photography gig, and one where there were to be big name, Australian and international riders present, with the icing on the cake, being the appearance of Chris Froome, defending Tour de France rider for Team Sky.
One of the things I love about cycling is the proximity of competitors to their fans: on the start and finish line sections of a race, you’re only behind a waist-high barrier, with the peloton spearing past at 40, 50, or 60 kilometres per hour in front of you; the wind they generate feels like it will blow you over, reach out and you could touch them. On the climbing stages of a race, often there are no barriers: it’s just you and your heroes, you’re there, part of the action. The fans are on the road, a writhing wall in the leaders’ faces, shouting encouragement, or abuse, depending on the number of hours they’ve been waiting on the mountainside and the number of beers they’ve downed in their wait. And when a rouleur (general rider) or tail-marker is suffering on the climb, the peloton having sped past an age prior, spectators will often howl their support and even run alongside the drooling rider, their hands in the small of the riders’ backs, pushing them along (illegal, but normally ignored) to try to help them up and over the crest to try to regain the long-since disappeared peloton.
Yet, even with this close proximity, it was still a real thrill to don the official photographer’s bib over my shirt, denoting that I was now in exalted company, amongst other photographers like Graham Watson, Con Chronis, Michael Klein; guys whose work I’ve been following these past few years. It was also a real buzz to be in the finish line chute, behind the white line the race organisers tape on the ground some 50 metres beyond the finish line, elbow to elbow with fellow photographers, big body cameras and enormous telescopes of glass with whirring motor-drives, a quarter of a million dollars of cameras and lenses just to capture the sprint, the throw to the line, and the elation and exhaustion of the race finish.
Chris Froome didn’t disappoint his legion of fans, claiming an emphatic victory on the final stage at Arthurs Seat, on the peninsula in Victoria, and with it, the overall tour victory – a master class in professional riding from a true champion and champion team. For me, it was a blast to be a part of it all!
(Stage 4 photos also published on Cycling Victoria website)