Getting The Shot : Power, Speed And Emotion

James Startt explains how he got his shot of Wout van Aert in full flight during the sprint in stage eight of the Tour de France

Today’s stage was a complicated one to predict. With four categorised climbs, the finish could fall to a breakaway as much as a group sprint. And with the Alps on the horizon tomorrow, a breakaway had plenty of chances to go to the line. It very almost did. 

In the end several teams saw things differently as Jumbo-Visma, UAE-Emirates and Bike Exchange never allowed the break to build up a significant advantage. But with a steep climb in the final kilometre, a pure field sprint was not going to happen either, as most of the sprints got shelled well before the line. 

Once again I opted for a place on the sidelines, although it proved to be more difficult as the barriers were laid out somewhat differently than in days past. Finally, I found a spot tucked in between a television camera about 25 meters from the line.  

It proved perfect. Rows of fans lined up just under a tree and the late-afternoon Swiss light blanketed the scene in a golden glow. 

Now I just had to get the shot. Fortunately I had a good view of the final 300 meters and had more opportunity to anticipate the fast-approaching sprint than I do on most days. I could clearly see the yellow and green jerseys of Tadej Pogacar and Wout Van Aert leading the charge, positioned my Nikon D 5, and started firing just moments before they passed in front of me. 

Once again I got three images of the leaders before they passed. And of the three, two were keepers.

I was very happy with the third shot because there is a sort of classic balance with the three leaders all clearly in the frame. It illustrates the moment in a unique way.

But in the end, it was the very first frame that I prefer. 

Only Van Aert is visible. But I love the composition of this frame as well, which juxtaposes the emotion of the fans and the power and expression of Van Aert making his final dig to the line. The green jersey contrasts perfectly with the yellow caps and banner. And then there are the subtle contrasting gestures. Van Aert, with his head down and back arched, passes just under the spectators, who with their outreached hands, are in a unique way, giving him their blessing. But for this split second, you really understand the connection between the cyclists of the Tour de France and their fans.  

Camera : Nikon D5
Lens : Nikon 70mm-200mm (set at 50mm)
Shutter speed : 1/6000th 
Aperture : F 10