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Right Place, Right Time.

June 5, 2017

Stage 2 of the Tour de France should have been uneventful, a formality of getting from Dusseldorf to Liege, with the inevitable sprint to victory.

Reto Hollenstein loses his front wheel.

I was lucky enough to get a Moto for the day, piloted by my good friend Frank Kersten, who had chauffeured me around for much of the early season classics.

The brief for the day was to capture the peloton rolling through the German/Belgian countryside, simple.

Once the formalities of the rider sign on and Le Grande Departe were done, it was time to hit the Auto Route, with the aim of getting ahead of the race and finding that killer landscape which was going to be my money shot.

Tony Martin begins the domino effect.

Once a significant gap had been created between ourselves and the peloton we rejoined the race route, lined with fans in eager anticipation of the approaching riders.

As the kilometres ticked by that rolling landscape with the wow factor eluded me and the day was quickly turning into a dead loss.

If things couldn’t get any worse Franks voice crackled over the radio advising me the roundabout we were approaching was our last opportunity to get back on the Auto Route, if we were to get to the finish line once the race had passed, I wasn’t best pleased.

Hollenstein and Martin hit the ground.

I had no choice, I had to stop, it was either a shot of the peloton on the most uninspiring roundabout in Belgium or head to the finish with nothing.

After wandering around for twenty minutes, bemoaning my predicament, I set up stall on the exit of the roundabout, with good lines of site I should get a half decent shot of the race coming towards me, blocking out the majority of the uninspiring background.

I sat on the kerb waiting for the leaders, I felt a few spots of rain, those few spots turned into a down pour, taking shelter under a tree with a couple of local Gendarmes,  waiting for the shower to pass my thoughts turned to the scene that was in front of me, a fast downhill, a bend, a roundabout and a chasing peloton all soaked by heavy rain. The planets were aligned and I was convinced a crash was inevitable.

The cavalcade of vehicles at the head of the race began to filter through, I took up my position kerbside, the break passing without incident, ninety seconds later the peloton came into sight barreling toward the roundabout, with Quick Step, Sky and Katusha driving the chase, pointing my camera at the lead riders, following their progress through the viewfinder, finger squeezing the trigger, and then BANG!!! Reno Hollenstein of Katusha lost his front wheel taking down team mate Tony Martin and then the domino effect took over.

The aftermath.

Holding steady on the pile up, riders sliding in and out of frame, bodies and bikes from all directions, at this point I had no idea what I had captured, all I did know was I was the only one there, no TV, no press pack, just me, in a front row seat.

Riders assess the damage.

As quickly as it happened it was over, broken bikes replaced and riders sent on their way, full of adrenalin I ran back to the Moto shouting to Frank, “Did you see what happened”. With no time to spare I jumped back on the bike, scrolling through the images as we sped to the finish line, in time to capture Kittels victory.

With a coat over my head to shade my laptop, I began editing, sat on the footpath outside the team buses, still blissfully unaware of what I had captured.

The Maillot Jaune in the middle of the pile up.

It wasn’t until later that evening, I uploaded a shot to Instagram,  the flood gates opened, it was at that point I realised the magnitude of the image.

Froome, Bardet and Thomas, the decisive moment.