Culture

Best images of 2020: Tour de France stage 11

James Startt discusses how COVID restrictions at this year's Tour forced photographers to get creative in finding new shooting locations – and in this case, it paid off.

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Sanitary measures due to COVID-19 made working on the Tour de France particularly complicated, and most photographers covering the race were not given the same access as in years past. But sometimes such constraints prove to be a good thing; most of us, for example, were not allowed to photograph the stage finishes as in years past. So we had to find alternatives.

Several of us noticed that there was usually an opening in the barriers on one side of the road only meters from the line, and from then there would always be a small group of photographers on any given day working this spot. But these locations could be very hit or miss as the lighting often proved complicated and it was hard to anticipate just when the riders would dash in front of you, as there was no way to see them approaching.

But on this 11th stage of the Tour, everything came together.

Hearing the thunder of the Poitiers crowd building as the riders approached, I readied myself and started shooting as the first wave of riders literally flew past.

I had no idea what my camera actually captured, to be honest. And it was only after reviewing the images that I saw Caleb Ewan grimacing as he searched for the last ounces of strength to propel himself across the line in front of Sam Bennett, Wout van Aert, and Peter Sagan.

It’s funny to look back at this photo now, because in the moment I was not even sure if this was the best image in the series. But there was something in the composition here that I had never seen before in my images. And at the end of 2020, this one goes down as my favorite.