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Shooting the UCI Road World Championship

Shooting an international road cycling event is a huge buzz. Here’s a post about how the day unfolded when I shot the UCI Road World Championships for Southcreek.

The arrival – 8.30am

Cycling 2010 - Oct 3 - UCI Road World Championships - Elite Men Road Race

The first part of the day is rider sign on.

Cycling 2010 - Oct 3 - UCI Road World Championships - Elite Men Road RaceFor the 2010 Worlds this was in Melbourne. It’s the first Worlds where the race started in one city and finishes at another. The race will finish in the city of Geelong, some 60 kms away from Melbourne.

Cycling 2010 - Oct 3 - UCI Road World Championships - Elite Men Road Race

After the rider sign on comes the race start.

Cycling 2010 - Oct 3 - UCI Road World Championships - Elite Men Road Race

For media, there were three options for attending Melbourne for the race start and getting down to Geelong for the section of the race that involved 11 laps of a road circuit. The problem is that the peloton will be going down a major highway which will have full road closure with the road being closed about 30 min before the peloton goes through and reopening 30-40 min afterwards. Option 1 is to catch the media bus that leaves 30 min before the race start. This bus will go straight to a position around 2/3rds of the way to Geelong for a photo opportunity. Option 2 is to catch the media bus that leaves 3 minutes after the start and will go straight to Geelong. Option 3 is to drive your own car – more of that later.

The chase – 10.30am

The problem with Options 1 and 2 is that it won’t be possible to cover the start and shoot any images along the road from Melbourne to Geelong. In fact there was a warning that media might be caught up in traffic jams and miss a few laps of the Geelong circuit. After pouring over the road maps for hours I found a route out of Melbourne to get to the photo opp town of Lara without travelling on the roads which were subject to road closures. After shooting the start I got into the car and went travelling through the suburbs to catch the peloton. Here’s the route that avoided road closures.

It led us to go on roads that is seldom travelled, like this bluestone lane under a railway bridge that is subject to flooding.

In the end, we missed the peloton by about 2 minutes because the traffic through Footscray and Altona was quite heavy and I also ended up at the wrong intersection at Lara. But at least we tried! Here’s the photo I would have got but with the peloton going the other way. It was taken on a scouting trip the day before the race.

Cycling 2010 - Oct 2 - UCI Road World Championships - Elite Men Road Course

The navigation – 12pm

The next challenge was to get into Geelong by avoiding the Geelong road closures. The usual route into the city was closed from 11am to 1pm because the peloton was scheduled to use that part of the road that linked the Melbourne route to the Geelong circuit. The solution was to take a ring road and come into Geelong from the South instead of the closer North entry. This also took some research time to figure out. But it did get us into Geelong with enough time for a bite of lunch before heading to the track.

The locations – 2pm

So getting into the right places along the circuit to get the shots is the next logistical challenge. The organisers have shuttle buses that pickup and drop off photographers along the circuit. However, this bus does the pickup/dropoff after the peloton goes through. So you shoot the riders, jump in the bus and then jump off. This means you’ll miss shooting the riders for a lap. If you want to shoot at 4 locations you’ll effectively miss shooting 4 out of the 11 laps.

I worked out the points on the circuit where I could drive to near the road blocks, park, shoot and then drive to another spot and effectively shoot the peloton twice in the one lap. The position I chose was at the top of the 2nd climb which would allow me to drive back down to the start finish line. Here are photographers on the edge of the road on the second climbing section.

Cycling 2010 - Oct 3 - UCI Road World Championships - Elite Men Road Race

The riders come past within 3 inches of you. It’s really quite scary. Here’s a photo shot with a 14mm ultra wide lens shot from this location.

Cycling 2010 - Oct 3 - UCI Road World Championships - Elite Men Road Race

And a shot from the main straight with a 400mm lens.

Cycling 2010 - Oct 3 - UCI Road World Championships - Elite Men Road Race

The position – 5pm

Just like real estate. Getting the shot is position position position. Photographers can generally go anywhere on the circuit provided its safe (but that’s a relative term). However, on the final lap there are specific locations for red bibs and the yellow and green bibs. The red bibs are handed out to the worldwide media agencies and the local national agencies plus a few special people. They have the location closest to the finish line. On other days photographers can go anywhere as this photo from the men’s time trial day shows.

Cycling 2010 - Sept 30 - UCI Road World Championships - Elite Men Time Trial

So, I was tucked up on the right hand side about 30 metres from the finish line which meant getting a shot with the 70-200mm. Even though I was on the side of the track the shot looks like he’s riding directly towards me.

Cycling 2010 - Oct 3 - UCI Road World Championships - Elite Men Road Race

The finale

So what did I learn? You can only get the pictures your location allows. While I would have loved to have been on the finish line it would have been nigh impossible to get the jube shot across the line and also get the rider being greeted by his team 50 metres up the road. It’s all a compromise if you’re a lone shooter. You need to plan your shots, get into position early and hope luck is with you.

Cycling 2010 - Oct 3 - UCI Road World Championships - Elite Men Road Race

More images here.

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