I could not have guessed the outcome of today in terms of what happened in the race and how my day went. Mentally, I wanted to the cliched yet iconic sun flower shot since we are in the south near the Pyrenees. For some reason I wasn't too concerned about the final mountain stage of the day in La Pierre Saint Martin.
Actually, I was concerned a little bit but not as much as the sun flower shot. In the previous three Tours I have photographed, not once have I managed to photograph the peloton against the sun flowers. Even during the last tour in 2013, the sun flowers looked terrible. I wanted sun flowers, I was prepared to throw a tantrum and even pinched the foldable chair from my hotel room which I will return tonight.
As I was driving along, all I saw was corn fields and not a single sun flower field. I kept driving and driving, eventually I saw my first sun flower field and it wasn't exciting. I kept driving and eventually I had driven 50km till I saw the second one. I stopped and chatted with Kei and he was contemplating of stopping here. I even chatted with one of the locals who spoke fluent English and French, after all she was from the UK. She suggested this was the only sun flower field in close proximity.
It was a good size field but I wasn't getting enough elevation and one of the home owners suggested i use their terrace. Even the terrace wasn't too appealing till I stood on one of the concrete pillars in their front yard which was the perfect elevation and perspective. Soon after droves of photographers started stopping at the exact same house. We all knew this was it.
From here, it was on to the finish. I thought the drive was going to be quick but it was nothing but slowness and traffic. Eventually, I made it to the bottom of the climb but catching a glimpse of the race on the screen suggested the peloton wasn't too far off and I was still at the bottom. The caravan and team buses were causing the traffic to build up.
I was almost two kilometres from the finish and the Basque fans were in their truly glory, being unruly and loud. For me this was perfect, I could haven't asked for anything better. I was getting honked at by cars behind me whilst I was photographing the Basque fans. These fans were enjoying their moment and tuned on the other cars by screaming profanities.
By the time, I made it to the top the race was 30 kilometres away, not much time to decide where to shoot from. The 350 meters to go spot looked amazing but I noticed a few photographers being behind the barriers and I didn't quite like being in the same position as them. I made the executive decision to walk down two kilometres to where the Basque fans were.
In the end I can say it was worth the walk because finally I got to photograph the Tour how I have always wanted to. It felt like a long time since I had experienced so much energy. It is no different to what you would see on TV but rather dangerous for the riders.
I truly deserve pizza tonight!!!!!