As a keen cycling fan I was very pleased to be asked to photograph the Bristol stages of the Tour of Britain 2016. I had photographed a number of smaller cycling races in the past and was looking forward to stepping up to a larger meet.
On the morning of the race I was awoken by the sound of rain hammering on the window. Not ideal conditions I thought. However, as I gathered my gear and headed for the individual time trail start line the rain clouds, as if hearing the prayers of the organisers ceased their downpour. I decided to set up camp at the start line in order to get some portraits of high profile riders such as; Mark Cavendish, Ella Viviani, Alex Dowsett and Bradley Wiggins who was competing in his last ever road race. With my viewfinder packed with cycling royalty teamed with the atmosphere created by the vociferous Bristolian crowd it was impossible not to get wrapped up in the buzz of the event.
After an hour or so I wandered across to the final KM of the circuit that snaked out of the woods and then wound around the edge of Clifton Downs. There I was able to see the riders in full swing, trying to eat up as much time before hitting the finishing line. I managed to get a few shots of the riders finishing the race before hurrying back to the start line to catch overall race leader Stephen Cummings complete his lap.
As I walked through the team camps after the time trial, I was able to gain an insight into the mindsets and preparation of the riders and teams preparing for the next stage of the race. It was interesting to see how the riders approached their preparation – some very relaxed, chatting to their teammates. On the other hand, some had entered a concentrated state, headphones locked into their ears clearly visualising the race ahead.
With a couple of hours before the start of the next race I had time to track down a much needed bacon roll and touch base with some of the other photographers following the Tour of Britain. I also took some time to take shots of the people who were watching the tour, as they had become a massive part of the event and created a great atmosphere for the riders.
The start line for the circuit race was a who’s who of international cycling with a mixture of international champions, Tour De France veterans and Olympians taking their places on the start line with their respective teams. At one stage I turned away from the line and practically walked into Bradley Wiggins, which added to the slightly surreal environment.
The race started quickly with a small breakaway group including German champion Andre Greipel taking an early lead. Throughout the course of the race the main peloton worked hard to reel the leading group in, succeeding in doing so on the final lap with about 2km to go. At this point, Rohan Dennis attacked and managed to sprint away from the main peloton to secure the win for him and his team, BMC Racing. Stephen Cummings did enough to retain the yellow jersey and overall lead. It had been a long but enthralling day of cycling and one of my favourite jobs to date.