Study the website of Belgian photographer Sigfrid Eggers and you will not find many cycling images. His bread and butter is fashion and publicity, but he is a huge fan of cycling, and the Quick Step team in particular.
Having taken the team’s portrait shots a decade ago, somehow it would be ten years before Eggers got the gig again. What began as official team portraits and pre-season testing shots soon mushroomed into a body of work that cried out for a book.
“Before you know it, by the end of January, I was in Colombia horse riding with Fernando Gaviria, and we had the president of Colombia in the bus,” Eggers says. “Then it started to grow. The moment the season started, I already had a lot of pictures.”
With official approval from the team, Eggers spent the entire 2018 season embedded with the Wolfpack. “I had to pick which races to attend, because sometimes you will have three different teams at three different races. You can’t be everywhere. Sometimes you miss one – like Viviani losing at Gent Wevelgem – and think why wasn’t I there? But you can’t do it all.”
How did he gain acceptance from the riders and staff? “In the beginning, it was a bit awkward to go into their private space – the hotel room, the bus – where they are secure from the outside world – but I work with small, silent cameras. Sometimes they don’t even notice me. I think that helps.
“The riders all got the book a week ago, and they were going through and saying ‘I didn’t even know you were there’, and that is the biggest compliment.”
What comes across clearly in Eggers’ shots is the sheer enjoyment of being part of the biggest winning team in 2018. Of course, there are the obligatory close ups of torn flesh and fresh wounds, post-race exhaustion and rueful expressions at missed opportunities, and race action from around the world.
But capturing the moments of joy and behind the scenes tomfoolery were just as important to the photographer as the pain and suffering to tell the whole story. His favourite shot from the book is an informative choice.
“There is one, after Liège–Bastogne–Liège in a restaurant in Gent, where Patrick [Lefevere] decided that everybody should have a party. You have issues with whereabouts, so that had to be secured; trains and planes to sort, everybody had to get home afterwards. It was so wild, so crazy. I have so many pictures that I can’t publish!
“But there is one in the book with Philippe Gilbert smoking a cigar, and Patrick Lefevere sitting next to him with a glass of wine, showing the middle finger to me. He said he would do this every time I took his picture: ‘The book is not about me.’
“It shows how deep I could go into the team and what I could take pictures of.”
As for a personal favourite subject to train his lens on, understandably the effervescent Julian Alaphilippe takes some beating.
“The moment he started to grow his beard, I was so happy. For me, as a photographer, that is like, wow! He became like a movie star. He could play in the black and white films from the 60s. He is always smiling, really open, to the team and also to the fans.”