comment 0

Tour de France 2014 – from the back of a motorbike

By Kim Ludbrook

If you don’t like hard work, living in 25 hotels in three weeks, driving 10.000 km in total and working from the back of a motorcycle careering through the French country side; don’t apply to cover The Tour de France!

Nothing prepared me for the incredible event that is The Tour de France 2014.

In our first three days of coverage in England, an estimated three million people stood by the side of the road to watch the world’s best cyclists ride the 101st Tour.

Motorbikes carrying TV and stills photographers are seen following previous Tour de France winner, Alberto Contador, ride back to the peleton after he crashed. epa / Kim Ludbrook

Motorbikes carrying TV and stills photographers are seen following previous Tour de France winner, Alberto Contador, ride back to the peleton after he crashed. epa / Kim Ludbrook

epa has three photographers covering the race and one professional motorcycle rider.

During each stage the two photographers in the car drive to the finish of that day’s stage and start to edit the images coming from the photographer on the motorcycle.

Photographers from the news agencies of epa, AP, AFP and Reuters wait on the finish line in The Mall in London during Stage 3. epa / Kim Ludbrook

Photographers from the news agencies of epa, AP, AFP and Reuters wait on the finish line in The Mall in London during Stage 3. epa / Kim Ludbrook

They also photograph the winner of that stage crossing the line and the podium because each day of the 21-day race has a podium ceremony.

Lotto Belisol procycling team rider Tony Gallopin of France celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the 11th stage of the 101st Tour de France 2014 cycling race, over 187.5 km from Besancon to Oyonnax, in France, 16 July 2014.  epa / Kim Ludbrook

Lotto Belisol procycling team rider Tony Gallopin of France celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the 11th stage of the 101st Tour de France 2014 cycling race, over 187.5 km from Besancon to Oyonnax, in France, 16 July 2014. epa / Kim Ludbrook

The photographer on the motorcycle covers the start of the stage with features, while on the bike he shoots the action of that day’s stage as well as feature images of the riders cycling through the landscape. The backseat of the motorcyle is his office for the day because he shoots and edits on the camera while riding at 50-60km/h and then transmits via 4G card and wireless transmitter attachment to the camera. The images are sent via FTP to the photographers editing his work at the finish.

Covering the race from the back of the motorbike is without question one of the hardest but most rewarding experiences I have had in my career.

The break away group in action with Omega Pharma Quick Step Procycling team rider Tony Martin (L) of Germany during the 10th stage of the 101st Tour de France 2014 cycling race, over 161.5 km from Mulhouse to La Planche des Belles Filles, in France, 14 July 2014. epa / Kim Ludbrook

The break away group in action with Omega Pharma Quick Step Procycling team rider Tony Martin (L) of Germany during the 10th stage of the 101st Tour de France 2014 cycling race, over 161.5 km from Mulhouse to La Planche des Belles Filles, in France, 14 July 2014. epa / Kim Ludbrook

It is really taxing on the body and very tiring in the mind as you are not only concentrating on shooting and editing but also trying to follow the events of the race with Guy, the professional motorcycle rider.

Guy is critical to the coverage as he has covered 20 TDF and not only knows cycle racing and its nuances but also all the riders, teams and many of the passes. He has race radio on his motorcycle so as the race progresses he is not only visually looking at break-aways and crashes but also listens to race radio who inform teams, media and TDF staff what is happening on the course.

While working in the peleton there are ‘regulators’ riding motorbikes who control the movement and access of the photographers, team cars and TV cameras covering the race. There are strict rules that we are not allowed to break.

A 'regulator', wearing red, is seen telling the motorbike riders carrying TV and stills photographers where they must ride during Stage 10. epa / Kim Ludbrook

A ‘regulator’, wearing red, is seen telling the motorbike riders carrying TV and stills photographers where they must ride during Stage 10. epa / Kim Ludbrook

This is all for rider safety and also to make sure that there are no motorbikes in the live TV shots that are beamed to millions around the world.

Like any outdoors sport covering cycling means that you are working in every weather condition from rain and cold to sun and heat: The Tour de France 2014 is like a 3,664km long ‘stadium’.

Saxo Tinkoff procycling team rider Alberto Contador (C) of Spain in action during the 4th stage of the 101st edition of the Tour de France 2014 cycling race between Le Touquet-Paris-Plage and Lille Metropole, in France, 08 July 2014.  epa / Kim Ludbrook

Saxo Tinkoff procycling team rider Alberto Contador (C) of Spain in action during the 4th stage of the 101st edition of the Tour de France 2014 cycling race between Le Touquet-Paris-Plage and Lille Metropole, in France, 08 July 2014. epa / Kim Ludbrook

Equipment wise on the motorbike I used a Canon 70-200 f4, Canon 16-35 f2.8 and a Canon 14mm with 2 Canon EOS 1DX while at the finish line I used a Canon 400mm.

What is amazing about The Tour de France 2014 is that each day of the Tour is a race on its own for the riders so it is an ever changing event with many winners, lots of crashes, lots of drama and many ‘news’ related angles on a sports event.

Garmin Sharp procycling team rider Andrew Talansky (3-R) of US falls as he makes the sprint on the finish line of the 7th stage of the 101st Tour de France cycling race, over 234.5 km from Epernay to Nancy, in France, 11 July 2014. epa / Nicolas Bouvy

Garmin Sharp procycling team rider Andrew Talansky (3-R) of US falls as he makes the sprint on the finish line of the 7th stage of the 101st Tour de France cycling race, over 234.5 km from Epernay to Nancy, in France, 11 July 2014. epa / Nicolas Bouvy

This year for instance saw both main contenders crashing out of the race and the images from the bike of those two crashes got the best usage around the world.

Saxo Tinkoff procycling team rider Alberto Contador of Spain is seated inside his team car as he abandons the race after crashing during the 10th stage of the 101st Tour de France 2014 cycling race, over 161.5 km from Mulhouse to La Planche des Belles Filles, in France, 14 July 2014. epa / Kim Ludbrook

Saxo Tinkoff procycling team rider Alberto Contador of Spain is seated inside his team car as he abandons the race after crashing during the 10th stage of the 101st Tour de France 2014 cycling race, over 161.5 km from Mulhouse to La Planche des Belles Filles, in France, 14 July 2014. epa / Kim Ludbrook

Orica Greenedge Procycling team rider Simon Gerrans (C) of Australia and Omega Pharma Quick Step Procycling team rider Mark Cavendish (bottom L) of Great Britain crash during the sprint of the 1st stage of the 101st edition of the Tour de France 2014 cycling race between Leeds and Harrogate, in United Kingdom, 05 July 2014.  epa / Yoan Valat

Orica Greenedge Procycling team rider Simon Gerrans (C) of Australia and Omega Pharma Quick Step Procycling team rider Mark Cavendish (bottom L) of Great Britain crash during the sprint of the 1st stage of the 101st edition of the Tour de France 2014 cycling race between Leeds and Harrogate, in United Kingdom, 05 July 2014. epa / Yoan Valat

As the peleton rides through the French country side at speed the motorbikes, team cars and helicopters on course, have a life of their own. Rushing through small villages and up mountain passes watched by millions of people who stand for hours simply to catch a glimpse of this most epic of human endeavours.

Special thanks to the amazing epa Photo team of Yoan Valat, Nicolas Bouvy and Guy Devuyst for helping me through my first tour. Bravo!

epa team covering the Tour de France 2014: (L-R) Kim Ludbrook, Nicolas Bouvy, Yoan Valet and motorbike rider, Guy Devuyst.

epa team covering the Tour de France 2014: (L-R) Kim Ludbrook, Nicolas Bouvy, Yoan Valet and motorbike rider, Guy Devuyst.

Do you like this story? Follow us on Facebook and on Twitter to stay in touch for more insightful stories from behind the scenes.

Leave a Reply