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Robert Wyatt: Tribute to a Rouleur Photographer

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“An absolute joy as a photographer and as a human being.” Robert Wyatt, who died last week, aged 46

Photographs: Robert Wyatt

At a cycling event somewhere down in the Alps, the guy sitting next me at dinner introduced himself as a photographer – not an unusual occurrence in my line of work, almost a weekly event, but the man persisted and got in touch with the editor, Guy, who knew a talent when he saw one.

 

Robert Wyatt had, at that point, never shot a bike race in his life, but his commercial work and personal projects were fabulous. He loved bike racing, and loved Rouleur, so decided to take a punt and marry the two. Guy thought he’d be worth a go.

 

We headed for the Three Days of De Panne, one of the least glamorous races on the Belgian calendar, to see what Robert would make of it, as we tailed Russ Downing and the NetApp-Endura team around Koksijde and its environs. Downing was out of sorts to start with, but once he’d sorted his mis-aligned cleats, the man was flying.

Three Days of De Panne

This is Downing in the five-man break of the day, shot by Robert from the middle of a ploughed Belgian field. And that’s my Skoda, not really broken down (it never breaks down) but the photographer thought it made a better prop with the bonnet raised. I’m not arguing.

 

 

Our next mission was the centenary Tour de France in 2013, three days of race-chasing in Brittany that became a comedy of errors on my part, as our race accreditation moved around France one step ahead of us, and our overbooked hotel resulted in Robert sharing a double bed with another photographer he’d never met before… It was probably the funniest three days of my life, as Robert’s brilliant anecdotes and non-PC stories kept us entertained during the many hours in the car.

tour de france 2013

This is Geraint Thomas after the time-trial at Mont Saint-Michel. Our columnist Matt Rendell is enjoying one of Geraint’s jokes just a little too much here. But he is funny.

Dave Loughran

Dave Loughran of Planet X now owns the classic Holdsworth brand. And he has a car to match, naturally. As for non-PC stories, Robert admitted Loughran had him beaten.

Mark Cavendish

Robert accompanied Ed Pickering (now Editor at Pro Cycling) to shoot Mark Cavendish in Italy and returned with wonderfully relaxed portraits of Mark and his family in their home. But this is my favourite. “Best photographer I ever worked with,” Ed wrote to me this week. “An absolute joy as a photographer and as a human being.”

Lincoln Grand Prix 2014

The Lincoln GP from 2014 as the bunch grinds to a halt on Michaelgate, shot for our annual. Who needs Flanders for filth and cobbled mayhem when the Lincoln provides everything a talented man or woman with a camera needs? Robert nailed it.

 

Hennie Kuiper

The great Hennie Kuiper shows us his trophy collection. And what a collection… “Racing is licking your opponent’s plate clean before starting on your own,” was the brilliant quote on the spine of issue 58, a line Kuiper says he never uttered – not is those exact words, at least.

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Robert was a big fan of the series of features we published in the earlier years of Rouleur, in which Herbie Sykes and Ben Ingham tailed aspiring professional Jan Hirt over the course of a season, and was keen to do a story in a similar vein. The three installments we did with AnPost-Chain Reaction began at the team launch in Calpe, with the riders waiting in the wings to be called on stage.

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Our next trip took us to the wonderful Rás in Ireland. The final stage in Skerries, with the help of the Phoenix CC from Belfast and a few pints of Guinness, provided the backdrop for this beauty from Robert.

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Robert was a Bristol boy, so the Tour of Britain in his hometown was a fitting way to finish the AnPost story. Here, he’s standing on Brunel’s Clifton suspension bridge, shooting down into Avon Gorge as the peloton begins the climb to the finish.

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Robert Wyatt, photographer, born 30 September 1970, died 14 January 2017