Monday, September 9, 2013

Tour De Farce

As a cycling enthusiast and a cameraman, I've spent the last week on a dream assignment - covering the Tour of Alberta.  A six day, 950 kilometer professional bike race held in 10 different communities throughout a large portion of the province.

Never having covered a cycling race of any sort, I had a lot to learn. It took me four days to discover that there was a media van that would zoom ahead of the tour and take you to scenic spots where you could set up and wait for the perfect shot.  Never again on the tour would I race out of town using my old school paper maps thinking that my cleverness and my navigating skills would lead me to postcard views of the peloton zipping past grain elevators or farmers in their fields harvesting their crops.
Dream shot

In reality, as I drove closer to my selected spot, there would be a lineup of 50 cars blocking a crucial intersection that I needed to drive through.  Driving on the edge of the road up to the RCMP officer directing traffic would only earn me a stern warning to not proceed further and who did I think I was driving on the shoulder?  Then it was a matter of grabbing the camera and tripod and running as fast as I could and with only moments to spare, level the tripod, mount the camera, fire it up, white balance, focus and frame up a mediocre shot as the first riders blasted through the countryside.

Where do you think you're going?
It was raining the day I discovered that the tour provided a media vehicle so I welcomed sitting in a warm, dry van driven by a tour organizer who could breeze through road blocks and drive at terrific speeds without any concern about speeding tickets (since the police were at the roadblocks).  What I didn't realize was that being in the media van meant being thrown about the insides as the vehicle sped around corners or slammed on its brakes to avoid a collision with an eager spectator.  At one point we could barely squeeze past the crowds lining a tight uphill curve somewhere in the foothill portion of the race.
Imagine squeezing through this
Once I gobbled some Gravol and my stomach settled down, I was able to focus my camera through the windshield of the van and grab a shot of four cyclists who had broken away from the peloton.  Surrounding these four cyclists was a cavalcade of motorcycles, VIP vehicles, team cars - seventeen in all,  and bringing up the rear - our little van which was now trapped behind the leaders meaning we would miss the cyclists crossing the finish line.  At least we didn't have to stand out in the pouring rain for hours on end waiting to grab the winner with arms upraised and winning this stage of the tour.
The breakaway group as seen from inside the warm, dry van

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