The riders’ fight for position is half of what the fuss is about at Paris-Roubiax. Photographers have a similar struggle. But while the riders are hoping to be in the right place to avoid the carnage, photographers only dream of being at the very heart of it.
David Powell got the golden ticket then when he hopped into the Mavic neutral service car for Rouleur at this year’s race. While team cars are often baulked behind the fragmented bunch on the narrow pavé, the Mavic car and motos have to act as first responder to crashes and mechanicals far more frequently than they do in other events.
It is, the London photographer notes, “the Mavic Team’s most physically and mentally demanding day of the year.” And for Powell -who also shot features on the Tour of the Alps and Tim Harris for Rouleur this year- it was “the most intense, action packed and frankly crazy shoots I’ve ever experienced”.
He elaborates: “Everything is happening all around you all at once, with Phillipe the mechanic going from being buried under discarded wheels in the back to leaping out the door of the still moving car, wheels in hand in the blink of an eye.
“UCI rules prohibit any leaning out of the window by photographers, so with my entire movement being restricted to the space of the passenger seat of a Skoda Octavia I had the challenge of showing this incredible race under some pretty testing conditions.
“But,” he concludes. ” I couldn’t have asked for a better viewpoint.”
“A Mavic Neutral Service mechanic clutches new wheels after handing over punctured wheels to the Mavic Car at Paris-Roubaix. The motorbikes constantly buzz around the back of the peloton and the team cars as they serve unfortunate riders with new wheels.”
“Villnöß, Italy, 20th April 2017: The peloton winds it way through the Valleys of South Tirol during stage three of the Tour of the Alps. The stage and overall race was won by Geraint Thomas.”
“Even though I was holding him up from starting his dinner, Michele Scarponi was happy to sit for a portrait for me on the second day of the Tour of The Alps. He held the leaders jersey and won a stage of the race in his preparation for leading Astana at the Giro D’Italia a month later. Tragically he was killed in training just four days after this was taken.”
“Tielt-Winge, Belgium, January 2017: Former British Champion, Tim Harris, outside the house that became home to countless young riders working their way up through the ranks of professional cycling. Chris Froome, Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, Ryder Hesjedal and Lizzie Deignan, to name a few, have all spent time here living here.”
“’The Chairman’ – as well as running his unofficial cycling academy, Tim Harris has also had a career selling chairs since he hung up his bike.”