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.
I’ve been to Andorra many times. While I was not charmed by the beauty of the town itself, there are some spectacular climbs. And I knew stage 15 had potential.
The roads from the village of Céret to Andorra were beautiful, and I knew that any action would happen on the final climb — the Col de Beixalis — as it boasted 10 percent grade.
More than 30 riders jumped into the early break, it became evident that the break would stay away. But who would win? At first, I thought that Julian Alaphilippe had the best chance. After all the world champion lives and trains here on these same roads.
But as the race approached the final climb, it was another local — American Sepp Kuss — who exploited hometown advantage.
The steep, sinuous roads, splintered the field early on the climb, and finding a good perspective was not easy. Nor was finding a parking spot.
Finally, with about three kilometers remaining, I saw an opening in a field where several cars had parked, so I joined them.
I looked down from above and saw a spectacular series of turns and several vantage points.
I sensed the crowds and the intensity building. And finally, I found a spot from above that allowed me to look down on one of the hairpin turns.
And as Sepp approached I focused tightly. Even then I knew that I would need to crop, but still, I really wanted to focus on Kuss himself.
As he passed I fired three or four shots. I anticipated that he would take the turn wider, but there was still ample room to focus on him.
Others followed, and one shot in particular of Alejandro Valverde came out wonderfully.
But the first American to win a stage at the Tour de France in more than a decade: Clearly, this was my shot of the day!