Getting The Shot : Mano a Mano On La Planche

James Startt on how he got his shot of Tadej Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard vying for stage victory atop La Super Planche des Belles Filles

It is safe to say that I generally avoid the classic finish line shot. Unless of course, there is a good reason. And this finish on La Planche des Belles Filles is one of them. 

A relatively new climb in the Tour de France, this short but brutal climb tucked away in les Vosges mountains has been included in six of the last ten editions. And it is always a setting for spectacular racing.

Most years, the stage actually finishes 700 metres below, but in 2019 and again this year, the stage finished at the very summit of the mountain, known as Super Planche, with the final 700 metres crossing dirt roads and dizzyingly steep pitches. When we finish here, I opt for the finish line. The dirt road below is magnificent as well, but here at the summit, you really get a sense of the steep pitch as the rider’s heads only come into view in the final 50 metres. 

To be honest, I hesitated seriously this year and actually got quite a workout, walking up and down between two positions before the riders closed in.

Position is everything at this finish, but finally I managed to find a spot tucked in just behind a barrier. In front of me was a clean 'straight down the barrel' perspective of the climb. 

As the riders hit the final pitches it looked as though Lennard Kämna, who was in the early breakaway, might actually hold off the favourites. After all, he still had nearly a 30-second lead less than 500 metres from the line. But the final 250 metres are the worst. 

As the first riders crested into view I immediately saw one Jumbo–Visma rider and then the yellow jersey of Tadej Pogačar. As they approached I sussed out Jonas Vingegaard and focused first on him as he was leading the charge.

But then Pogacar made his move and suddenly the two were side by side. It was a true mano-a-mano, Tour de France style, as the two were both out of the saddle, gutting it out to the line. 

It was only in the final metres that it was clear Pogačar was going to win for a second day in a row. But I knew that my shot of the day was already in the bag. 

Great Tours are made with great battles on the road. La Planche des Belles Filles offered the perfect stage to what just may go down as one of the great modern duels in the Tour. 


Camera : Nikon D5
Lens : Nikon 70mm-200mm (set at 200mm)
Shutter speed : 1/1600th 
Aperture : F 5

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