Standing in the shadows of greatness - capturing a stunning Grand Départ in Florence

James Startt reveals how he captured his shot of the Tour's opening stage in Florence

It is hard to imagine the thunder of a sea of screaming fans, or the visual power of the Tour de France peloton passing through the Piazza del Duomo in the heart of Florence. Simply put, the combination offered an unprecedented sense of grandeur rarely seen or felt in a bicycle race, or any sport for that matter.

Since the Tour de France announced its Grand Départ in Florence, I dreamed of getting a shot of the pack passing in front of this mesmerising cathedral that is the crowning jewel of this Renaissance city. But while most pictures only take a split-second to create, some, like today’s shot, can take hours to prepare.

Already in the days leading up to the official start on Saturday, I spent hours attempting to understand exactly where the race would pass and how I could best position myself.

Riding around the city on Friday, I spotted a window just above the corner where the riders would turn before rolling in front of the Duomo. I finally located the shop, Raspini, a small but deluxe fashion store. Gildet, the shop owner, proved to be most hospitable, and after leading me upstairs to study the exact perspective, agreed that I could come on Saturday.

Needless to say, I arrived early. But now the Tour was only hours away. Barriers had been installed overnight to guide the riders through, and the crowd was intense.

They cheered the publicity caravan, not to mention every team car that passed, while a fruit vendor struggled to push his cart through the crowded sidewalk.

But nothing matched the rapture of the fans when the Tour actually passed. I sat in my window shooting as many frames as I possibly could before the last rider passed, and when they finally did, I simply stopped and tried to reflect on what had just happened. I felt that I had just stood in the shadows of greatness. And it won’t be a moment I will likely forget any time soon. Vive le Tour!


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