Note: The photos in this blog post (and gallery) are all low-res images. Do not use or copy any photos without my permission – please email me at email@example.com for any inquiries. Click on any photo within the blog post to view in full screen mode – this works best on a computer and is not optimized for a smart phone. The photos in the photo gallery below are within a “film strip” and cannot be enlarged.
Link to the photo gallery for Stage 5: http://www.danarouleauphotography.com/home/?page_id=4100
Let’s rewind a bit – I moved to Santa Clarita, CA back in May of 2016; being a cyclist myself (the main reason I moved to CA actually), I quickly learned that a Tour of California stage finish was nearby, so I rode my bike over to Lyons Ave and watched Ben King defeat Evan Huffman at the line. It was my first attendance at a pro race and the overall experience was pretty awesome to say the least. When 2017 rolled around and the ATOC came back into town, of course I had to go again. The Santa Clarita finish this year was close enough for me to walk to, but I didn’t lug my camera gear over; no real point for a sprint stage as I learned last year, unless you can get a head-on shot. I never did post those photos except for one of Peter Sagan, which is part of my home page gallery.
Several days before the Stage 5 finish up at Mt Baldy, I made the executive decision to buy a VIP pass – being a freelance photographer, half of the challenge is often getting decent access/vantage point to capture events….and once in awhile this costs money. As a L’Etape California finisher, which was the same route as Stage 5 so I am intimately aware of how brutal this stage really is and how insanely fast these guys are, I received a 10% discount. Score. At first I was going to ride my bike up, but I already did that and wanted to bring my camera gear with me – which is not happening on a bike up Mt. Baldy. Then after doing some research and learning that parking would be a nightmare, I wasn’t in the mood to walk up Mt. Baldy with 20 pounds of gear on my back either. The VIP experience was great – there were some hiccups on race day in regard to coordination of the shuttle pickup location, parking and where to get the VIP passes which made things a little confusing for the first half hour I was there, but once that was sorted out it was fine. Also interesting to note – I think I saw at least as many cyclists, if not more, heading up to Mt Baldy to go watch Stage 5 than during the L’Etape California. The cycling culture in southern California is huge.
The VIP area was to open at noon; I think we got in around 12:30 p.m. as it took a little extra time to set everything up, but everyone was in good spirits and nobody complained. The sheer magnitude of the coordination/logistics of efforts, getting the different areas staged and built up and the number of volunteers was pretty crazy – everyone was working extremely hard to get things done, and the staff/volunteers were great to deal with. Between volunteers, security, vendors, media, staff, etc…..we’re talking hundreds of people.
Here are some of my favorite photos of the race itself – for the photography nerds, all photos were taken with a Nikon D810 and a Nikon 200mm F2 VR2 lens at F2…..since F2 is such a narrow range of focus at 200mm and I was shooting on a D810 (not exactly a sports camera), it was a bit of a challenge to nail focus consistently, but it did a relatively good job. I did get a bunch of riders kind of staring at me/the lens though, which I found funny – one of which I’ll include a series of photos further down below. I also had my Nikon 24-70mm F2.8G, Nikon 14-24mm F2.8G and Fuji X100-T with me as well, but used the 200F2 for all of the rider photographs.
Here’s a string of photos – there were actually twice as many but I deleted them – with Bert-Jan Lindeman from Lotto-Jumbo just staring at me as he’s riding along….for like 50 yards. I thought it was funny. I had to add in some captions of what I imagined going through his head at the time:
Ok, back to more “normal” photos and commentary….
That’s all, folks. If you ever get the chance to see a race in person, I highly recommend it – there really is nothing else like it.