It was the final time trial of the 2004 Tour de France. I had be lugging around a Nikon 80-200 AFD for the last week, just hoping for one great image of Lance. The Mona Lisa (dropping the hammer) of my cycling photography career. I didn’t have media access at the tour, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. On the previous mountain stages, I was too busy being a super fan to focus on photography. I dressed in all yellow and tried to run along side of the peloton waving a yellow flag made from a queen sized bed sheet with the number 6 spay painted on it. I say I tried because after carrying that sheet on the plane, packing it around the French country side, and finally getting into position to run with the leaders….I chickened out under the pressure. Visions of crashing Lance, and being solely responsible for his 1st tour loss, haunted me. My dream of running along side Lance waving a oversized banner of support and being broadcast across the world ended with me hanging my flag in a tree and politely clapping as he rode by. Bad for me, but in the long run, good for Lance.
Anyways, back to the photo. I knew that without media access, the one shot I had at making an image of Lance in the tour was the individual time trial. The start/finish is always too crowded for a decent photo. I knew I had to be on the course. After a quick map reconnaissance, I decided a round-a-bout 2km from the finish was going to be my best position. Setting out in torrential rain, I found my spot and waited…waited…and waited some more. As riders past, I would refer to the start list to see where we were in the race. Hincapie….Kloden…..Basso…..all the big names were rolling by. Another minute or two and Lance would be headed right at me. Sure enough, the next rider to fill my view finder was Lance Armstrong. They say, when you wear the yellow jersey, you ride with the strength of 10 men. When the yellow jersey fills your viewfinder, it takes all your focus (pun intended) and experience to walk away with an image. I don’t know if I will ever make an image like this again. An image where you have spent an entire year preparing, with only a single second to make it. I will be there again this year, lets just hope Lance is in yellow when he fills the viewfinder!
I hope you have enjoyed the images of Lance leading up to this years Tour. It will be an epic battle, fought on the high mountains of France. Whether Lance wins on not, he is ready, and riding for all of us. Please help to support him though your support of the Live Strong Foundation.
Good luck Lance!