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The Shot: Climax on Col d’Izoard

2017 Tour de France, stage 18: Briancon – Col d’Izoard, 179.5km

The Col d’Izoard is a climb of legends in the heart of the French Alps and in the 2017 Tour de France, it happened to be one of only three summit finishes. Normally the Izoard features on stages with more renowned Alpine finishes such as Alpe d’Huez, La Toussuire, or Gap.

The last mountain stage in this year’s Tour finished on the iconic summit. The riders ascended through the lunar-like Casse Déserte, making it tough to choose the best place to grab images. Iri elected to tackle the Casse Déserte. I [Jim] handled the summit finish. I was fully committed to the finish line shot and was secretly hoping for an iconic winning moment. Perhaps a win so bold as the maillot jaune crossing the line first? It could happen, but heck, any dominating solo victory was sure to be epic in the truest sense of the word.

After parking on the backside of the climb (incidentally, the side they climbed on the previous visit to the Izoard), we reached the summit and boom: The image was immediately striking for multiple reasons. The most stunning component was the “reveal” as the riders closed on the finish line. Also, they were graced with an essentially clean background — just jagged spikes of the distant Alpine range.

I arrived at the finish a full three hours ahead of the race only to find photographers already there and claiming spots. I got a front-row, low-angle position for this revealing finish line photo. Then, I had to decide what my framing and composition would be. My options were to shoot tight or a bit wider for more rider and maybe even the finish line banner as well. The peaks in silhouette provided the perfect backdrop, so I chose to start my shots in tighter on the reveal and zoom out a bit as the full bike crested to capture the rider head to toe with his arms up and the fan-lined road at his side. The fans were so energized and jubilant, you can feel their noise in the image.

As the stage played out, we were presented with a battle on this hallowed mountain landscape that one could only dream of. Frenchman Warren Barguil in the maillot à pois made a valiant effort to catch the lone leader and somehow pulled off the unthinkable: a solo victory in the king of the mountains jersey on top of the Col d’Izoard. It happened in the most majestic of places during the greatest race on Earth.

Key image specs:

• Canon 1DX
• Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM
• 1/1250 sec @ f/5.6 ISO 320
• Focal Length: 349mm
• File format: RAW
• Shot from the front row of the finish line

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