Down the lane cheers began to bob into the sky, buoyed by the crowd’s anticipation. In the baby-blue overhead a helicopter hovered above the source of excitement, a further indicator that something grand was coming. My camera trigger finger twitched as everything drew closer. I was on the street leaning past a wall of my fellow spectators. We were two banks waiting for the river to flow.
Suddenly it rounded the corner. A tsunami of colours, tires, helmets and faces fiercely focused on the starting line just a few meters beyond.
Intent on capturing some photos I mashed my face against my camera and clicked away. Through my telephoto lens the mass grew substantially, bloating like a balloon on a high-pressure hose. Lifting my eyes from the camera window I instantly realized I was alone and in trouble.
I was about to be mowed down by the Tour De France.
I certainly didn’t want my next blog post to be titled “One sure-fire way to cause a wreck in the Tour De France”.
Leaping to the street curb I glanced back to see my standard lens innocently sunning itself on the road.
With a personal motto of “leave no one behind” I kicked back into the street, nabbed the offending lens and hopped back onto the sidewalk.
At my back a draft of air curled to the sky as the cyclists peeled it off the street level. They were so compact they could have driven each other’s bicycles without the crowd noticing. I’d wondered why the crowd control here in Cambridge hadn’t ordered everyone back onto the sidewalk. It seems they were informed how formidable the racing mass could be.
Would the cyclists have stopped if I hadn’t been able to dodge in time? Where could they go wedged together so? It would have been a pile up for sure.
Which brings me to the topic for this post.
Five Rules of Tour De France Audience Etiquette
Just remember to (and this is really sound advice that some people for unknown reasons seem to not know):
1) Stay on the sidewalk if you are going to be awed, frozen in fear, distracted or slow in your instinctual dodging. Basically, don’t be this guy.
2) Don’t wave your flag or sign in front of the riders’ faces. I mean c’mon! I’m pretty sure they can see you and your infatuation in their peripheral vision. If not, they’ll catch you in the highlights later at home on their couches when they aren’t cycling at insane speeds in the race of their lives.
3) Don’t run with the cyclists (on the street). Feel free to sprint next to them on the bicycle path next to the road or the ditch or sidewalk, by all means. Then you can still come away and say you ran with the Tour De France without being punched in the face.
4) Pets should stay at home. Or very tightly on their leash. It’s for the good of the pet and the riders in the Tour De France.
5) If you really insist on a souvenir from one of the riders I suggest asking nicely (AFTER the race) or buying it off Ebay. Trying to snatch something off the bicycle, like say a water bottle, won’t get you anything but new swear words for your collection.
And one final round of advice. If you are planning to take photos:
– Go out of town away from the crowd congestion. Some of the best photos come from remote sections of the race.
– Have a lens with a wide range of 18-250mm or more. Or stick to your standard 18-55 mm and wait for the cyclists to come close. You’ll get more variety that way.
– Be ready to work fast if you are near the start line. I had 18 seconds of photo opportunity before the cyclists were gone and the parade of accompanying cars arrived (and who wants photos of those).
– Stay clear of the track so you don’t get run over, but I’m sure that’s obvious by now… and if it isn’t I suggest just take photos of the television coverage.