One thing I like about Wout van Aert is that he never makes bike racing look easy. And today, even photographing bike racing was difficult.
All of the warm welcome that greeted us at the start of this year’s Tour de France in Copenhagen was suddenly blown away when steady rains hit the city barely an hour from the start. Walking up and down the final two kilometers of the course I struggled to find a spot that really spoke to me, but I finally settled on a series of turns at the 500-meter mark.
Almost as soon as I sat down the rain really hit en force. To be honest, I was worried I might not make it through the next four hours. Cameras don’t like the rain, and while you can protect them to a certain degree, the various coverings make every manoeuvre hard. Shooting a simple image is increasingly complicated as the covering never really fits perfectly around the camera and lens and it often can fall in front of your lens or viewfinder. But working without protection is also a risk, and after losing a lens and a body in the Alpine rains of last year’s Tour, I did not want to be one camera down already after the opening stage.
I liked this particular corner as I knew that the best riders would come out of the first turn on the outside next to the barriers, and the sea of fans offered an amazing backdrop. Clearly they were less bothered by the rain than I was!
Interestingly most of the big favourites today chose to start mid-way through the afternoon, calculating that the weather would be better. They calculated wrong!
Just as Primož Roglič, Filippo Ganna, Jonas Vingegaard, Van Aert and Tadej Pogačar hit the course, the skies opened up, making for some of the most difficult conditions of the day.
Of the favourites Van Aert appeared most in control, and he rolled by the cheering fans, it was clear that he was on a good day. I fired three or four images before he moved into the centre of the road to negotiate the final turn, and this shot was the best in the series.
It captured Van Aert’s effort. It captured the horrific conditions. And it captured the passion of the Danish fans who had waited so long to finally have the Tour de France come to town that they weren’t going to let a little rain get in the way of the party.