Getting the shot: The peloton and the ‘Giant of Provence’

To capture the truly unique nature of a bike race on this climb can be difficult.

Photo: James Startt

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

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.

Along with the Cormet de Roselend, the Mont Ventoux is without a doubt one of my all-time favorite climbs. While I have often photographed bike races here, I have learned that it can be difficult to capture the unique nature of this climb.

There are so many distinctive aspects to Mont Ventoux. There is its iconic tower on the summit, and of course, the barren rock face that is found along the final six kilometers of the climb. But to capture the truly unique nature of a bike race on this climb can be difficult.

Also read: Getting the shot — The calm before the storm

There were plenty of opportunities for outstanding action shots on today’s stage that climbed this mountain known as the Giant of Provence, but I wanted to focus on the unique nature of the climb itself.

Arriving early, the crowds were already settling in. But just after the two-kilometer mark, I saw an opening. And after parking my car near the summit, I walked back down to it.

I was impressed by the sheer rock face, that is so unique to Ventoux and it is what I love so much about it. Unlike so many climbs, there is no ski resort at the summit. And this barren landscape provides a unique stage, one where there is no distraction. There is something minimal about Ventoux that pitches the cyclist against the mountain.

And it was here on this short stretch of road where I felt I could best capture the unique nature of the climb. As the first riders came up, I actually positioned myself just underneath the roadside and shot upwards towards them.

Jonas Vingegaard on stage 11 of the 2021 Tour de France.
Jonas Vingegaard on the second ascent of Mont Ventoux on stage 11 of the 2021 Tour de France. Photo: James Startt

But for photographing the main pack, I ran back up a hundred meters or so to get above them, and as Team Ineos Grenadiers paced the pack up the climb I shot away. Once again I opted for my Nikon Z7 because the quality of the 45 MPX frame is simply so rich in detail.

And I was not disappointed.

Later, for the second lap up the climb, I moved closer to the summit to capture more of the action. But none of the shots from that series matched this one for capturing, what is for me, the essence of this iconoclastic climb.

Trending on Velo

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.