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Tour de France

Getting the shot: Cavendish gets number 34

Generally, I avoid the classic finish line shot, but today was an exception as Mark Cavendish was on the verge of making history.

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VeloNews and Peloton contributor James Startt, the winner of the 2021 World Sports Photography Awards, is covering his 32nd Tour de France. For this year’s Tour de France he will provide a regular feature explaining how he gets his favorite shots of the day and also what equipment he uses.


Well, it is safe to say that as soon as I understood that today’s stage was going to come down to a sprint, I knew I had to be at the finish line. Generally, I avoid the classic finish line shot as it is hard to come up with something original. But today was an exception as Mark Cavendish was on the verge of making history.

Throughout the final kilometers, Cavendish remained well placed, and with his Deceuninck-Quick-Step team driving the train at the front, it was clear that he had a real chance to equal Eddy Merckx’s record.

I shot away as he blasted towards the line and across it. But moments later he gave me a real gift as he stopped his bike just behind me, got off, and sat down against a barrier. I was the first to arrive, but I knew that it would not last long as Cavendish had just made history and other photographers would soon be rushing in.

In a sense, it was a momentary calm before the storm. Cavendish was still gasping for breath, but also trying to absorb the moment. My Nikon D5 with a 20mm lens and fill flash was my weapon of choice.

Moments later, the same space was packed as other photographers, team staff, and riders clamored around Cavendish. It was a good old-school scrum!

I shot what I could then, moving around and trying my best to anticipate other shots. But as I looked back over the series, it was the first shot that resonated most, the calm before the storm.

Cavendish found a hole, and his leadout man, and scored his fourth stage win of the 2021 Tour de France.
Cavendish found a hole, his leadout man, and then scored his fourth stage win of the 2021 Tour de France. Photo: James Startt
Mark Cavendish realizing he tied the record for Tour de France stage wins by an individual.
Mark Cavendish realizing he tied the record for Tour de France stage wins by an individual. Photo: James Startt