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Tour de France

Getting the shot: The calm before the storm

This shot summed up what was a quiet day on the Tour — the quiet before the storm that is Mont Ventoux!

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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.


Today was the first stage after the Tour’s first of two rest days. But in many ways, it felt like it was an extension of it. The first attack rode away without much resistance, and it seemed as though many riders in the race were only too happy to have a relatively routine sprint stage. After all, tomorrow is the much-anticipated double Mont Ventoux stage.

Also read: Brandon McNulty on the Cormet de Roselend

And this was fine by me. The two back-to-back mountain stages in the rain left my Nikon D5 waterlogged. It spent the rest day in a closed plastic back with a kilo of uncooked rice — an age-old photographer’s remedy to suck out the humidity within the camera. The only problem is that it is still not entirely dried out. So, I started the day with just my Z7. With rains threatening much of the day, I was in no mood to take chances.

And with the lack of action, I opted to drive ahead and look for a scenic shot. I was underwhelmed by the landscape when we headed into the Rhone River valley.

Finally, we rolled into a small town with a gentle festive spirit. Stopping on a corner, the cycling fans were enthusiastic, and the local resident was only too happy to see the Tour pass by his second-floor window.

The breakaway was not far behind, so I quickly set up my frame. This would be a slow shutter speed shot for sure, focusing on the fans with only the blur of the riders to accent the frame.

The Z7 does not fire as many shots per second as the D5 so I knew I would only have one or two images. With my left eye open, I tried to perceive the movement of the oncoming cyclists, and when I did I started firing. Looking into my camera’s screen after I could see that I captured them twice, but this one was my definite favorite.