Getting the shot: Pogacar after the line

This may not be my best shot of the Tour de France, but it sure felt good taking it.

Photo: James Startt

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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.

For years I would forego the classic finish line shot and hover well behind the line to capture the riders and their emotions close up.

It was a theme I had pursued for years, a theme I had published and exhibited.

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

But for the past two years, with COVID restrictions in place, such shots have literally been impossible for most photographers here at the Tour, unless you are lucky enough to be part of the Tour de France photographers pool.

Today, with the breakaway finishing nearly 15 minutes ahead of the main group, most of the photographers had long since moved to the awards podium, and I sensed an opportunity to get a few shots of riders after they crossed the finish line.

I looked to where the riders wearing the distinctive jerseys would be escorted into the podium area and waited.

Ironically, I was chatting with fellow photographer Jered Gruber just yesterday while we waited for the race to come up Mont Ventoux. And we both noted that we use a flash less and less. But we also agreed that there are moments when a flash really can make the difference. And today was one of those moments.

Using my vintage 20mm lens I did a few tests to identify the best shutter speed to capture the sense of movement I hoped to achieve. I settled on 1/50 of a second, a speed that would allow the flash to capture the central movement while letting blur enter the background.

We waited for the riders to pass; they all continued past us after the sprint to the line. And soon enough, both Mark Cavendish and Tadej Pogačar came rolling back towards me. With Pogacar on my side, I focused on him, shooting four frames before he was whisked away to the podium area. And this shot was the strongest.

It could have been stronger if, say, the stage had been more challenging and he expressed more emotion. But I still liked the play of colors and the reflection of the flash in his mirrored glasses. While it is not my best shot after the line, it sure felt good to at least be able to shoot here.

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.