It's almost 1 am here in Toulouse and I am sweating like a pig in my tiny hotel room near the airport. I could not have believed it if you told prior to today's stage that I would be encountering such weather on Plateau De Beille.
The weather in Lannemezan was beautiful, it almost felt like summer time Melbourne weather, hot and beautiful blue sky. Arriving at the start line you could not miss hearing the Colombian fans who had gathered for Quintana and Uran. You have to admire the fans who in small numbers band together to form a colossal megaphone and won't stop chanting till their idols came to see them. They chanted with such conviction which stopped in my tracks and created this desire to photograph them.
During the day the weather looked fine till I got to the township of Sinsat, the clouds started looking ominous and I knew it was going to be a wet afternoon. As I drove up the clouds got darker and I could see sporadic droplets of rain hitting the windscreen. I'm looking at the clock and it's ticking away quick as I look ahead to see the long line of traffic trying to get to the top of the mountain.
By the time I was under the flamme rouge, the heavens truly opened. It was raining heavily and I was sitting comfortable inside my little tin can but you had to empathise with the riders who had to face such drastic change in weather. Were they prepared for it ? Perhaps!!
Mentally, I was prepared to photograph in the rain and deep inside I was hoping for at least one stage that would have bad weather, however I was not looking forward to wet shoes and wet socks. Perhaps my pet hate is having my shoes and socks get wet but there is nothing else I can do about it.
By the time I parked, it started hailing and there was no time to sit in the car, I was committed to running down to the two kilometre mark. I had about 30 minutes before the race would arrive and I was running as fast as I could with my gear slung across my shoulder. The fans were screaming allez !!! allez!!! or venga!!! venga!!!! Momentarily it was uplifting till I had to stop to catch my breath and realising I have indulged myself in too many creme brulee since the Tour started.
Slowly motorbikes started arriving the fans who were shivering in the cold waiting to see the Tour come by, started taking their positions around the hairpin bend. The commissions started once Purito was in range.
I couldn't see shit. My glasses had droplets on, my eyepiece on the camera had droplets on so I had to cross my fingers and hope the camera is focusing on something. I noticed the camera was focusing as fast. It was an "oh fuck!!!" moment but too late, I had to make do with what I had. In the end it always works out in my favour.
My end game was to head back up two kilometres to the finish line to catch the grupetto. Those two kilometres hurt me, I was counting down the meters and it felt far too long. It makes you wonder what sort of mental strength does it take to race an arduous stage such as this in such inhospitable weather. Such is the beauty of cycling!!!!
*Disclaimer: It's now 1.40am and I can barely keep my eyes open so forgive me for any grammatical mistakes.