TOUR DE FRANCE
- road cycling
Tour de France – Stage 20 – July the 25th, 2015
After exchanging a couple of e-mails with Daniel from Manual for Speed about their attendance at the Tour de France, the following decision has been made; A visit to this snail, frog and smelly cheese eating country is of the utmost importance and has to be done unconditionally in the year of 2015.
The following report is a result of spending one evening at the MFS portable HQ, which was in the fifth floor of the Résidence Pierre et Vacances Le Thabor – Valmeinier, France. And a day in their car, also known as a Peugeot Clio(yes it’s a Renault) following the 20th stage of TDF, to be precise; the one that started in Modane Valfréjus and finished on top of L’Alpe d’Huez.
In case you didn’t know, Manual for Speed is a website and a project, dedicated to the sport of professional cycling. They are photographers, they are reporters, they are publishers etc. And what makes them different from the rest of the media bunch is that they focus on EVERYTHING, and that means E V E R Y T H I N G that has anything to do with cycling. Chillers, barricade butts, racers, cars, dogs, podium girls, shoes… the list goes on. Covering the TDF for the first time ever was Daniel Wakefield Pasley and Emiliano Granado.
At the time of our visit, Daniel was writing some shit down, while Emiliano edited photos and took the opportunity to make the only French guy in the room useful. How they managed to get some work done that evening is beyond me. All I know is that apparently Daniel went to sleep at 6am and we had to wake up at 10am to get this shit show started. Now you can imagine that doing that for three weeks in a row can fuck up your mind, but it seems like it’s working just fine with them. Keeping the schedule, we woke up at 10am, packed our shit into the Peugeot Clio, threw away at least 10 empty Perrier bottles from the Peugeot Clio and tried to make it to the start. For reasons that I will not talk about, we missed the start. But I’d like to clarify one thing, and it regards only the French fucker who left his camper in front of a road blockade; if you are incapable of parking a fucking camper in such a way that people can actually drive past it, at least stay near the camper so that people who have the actual ability to drive can find you and move your fucking camper away… nothing personal, just saying.
After getting frustrated early on, we got some coffee and continued our way to the final climb of the day – L’Alpe d’Huez. All along the way there were people cheering, waving, chilling and staring in the direction of our filled-with-magnetic-hearts Peugeot Clio. Literary… there were people eveeerywhereeeee, not a single stretch of emptiness along the way! And that was hours before the start of the race. The goddamn freebie scouts had their bags filled with promotional caps, polka dot jerseys, water bottles and what not. Some of them had their storage space dialed, layering the caps in all directions and wearing t-shirt over t-shirt, while some of them just threw everything on the ground and fought tooth and nail with anyone who tried scoring some of the stuff. Meanwhile in the car, conversations about these creatures unraveled as we fought the gathering crowds towards our goal. As we drove higher on the serpentines of d’Huez, the spectators became weirder and the capacity of chillers multiplied. The thin air seems to be doing them good and they all loose every last bit of their dignity by the time the racers reach them. The annoying Dutch and their euro dance parties, the mad Colombians, the chill French and the ever so serious Germans fill the roads and wait for their moment of glory. The weirder it gets, the better!
Daniel and Emiliano work systematically. They are not interested in the race itself as much as in the surroundings, and if there is one thing that gets their attention it’s the chiller. The fat, shirtless, old, drunk… chiller. They scout them down and document their behavior; usually the response is pretty welcoming, though sometimes the “showoffs” get in their way. For a short period of time we actually get to see the race and the roadside nuthouse goes berserk. The photo studio turns into a battle for positions as the spectators demand their seconds of fame and the photographers demand their ground to document it. If you’re lucky you shoot something good and if you’re a dick you get your panorama camera stuck into a racers bike… anything can happen really.
And if the whole thing wasn’t crazy enough, after the shit show is finished all the Freds and the Bernards and all the wannabe pros that came to watch the race on their bikes, decide to go home as quickly as possible. And you can imagine what happens when hordes of drunken Freds start cycling into the valley among “normal” people and cars…
BUT even while writing this, and realising how fucked up it all is, I still think that the Tour de France is the best spectacle in the whole wide world! A tough sport needs a tough audience, and it needs tough reporters to observe the weirdness. And when it comes to reporting weirdness, there is no one better to do the job than Manual for Speed!
– Marko Šajn