Faces of Le Tour: part one

by Matt de Neef


There’s far more to the Tour than just 200 cyclists making their way around France. There are literally thousands of people that work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure everything runs smoothly for the biggest annual sporting event in the world.

And that’s not to mention the many hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of fans that watch the race by the roadside every year.

Throughout this year’s race we’ve been meeting some of the people that bring life to the Tour de France, from the hard workers that make the race happen, to the multitude of supporters that make the Tour the great spectacle it is.

Here then is the first of several editions of Faces of Le Tour.

David Pearce – photographer

We bumped into British photographer David Pearce wandering around the start of stage 3 in Antwerp, Belgium, lugging around a seemingly antique camera.

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It’s a Mamiya C330. They started making them in about the 1970s. It’s a medium-format film camera and it takes square pictures, 6 by 6 inches. There’s no light meter in there so it’s completely and utterly manual. There’s no battery. It’s completely mechanical. It really takes you back, it slows you down, it really makes you think about your photography. Each roll of film only has 12 shots on it so you have to nail it.

I get so incensed at seeing photographers machine-gunning 11 shots a second for absolutely nothing – someone stationary. I want to bring back some skill into photography, think about composition and this enables you to do it so much more easily than it does with digital.

I won’t see anything until I get home. I’m shooting in black and white and I’ll develop it there, and hopefully print it. I’ve got a whole bunch of film and I’m just having some fun and see what we get.

Thibault Hofer – IAM communications officer

Most teams at the Tour de France seem to have at least two staff members on the ground to handle their team’s media appearances. One of the people responsible for this job at IAM Cycling is Thibault Hofer, a communications professional who had something interesting to say about the memorable moments at Le Tour.

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I’ve been following the Tour and been excited by it all my life. I come from the fan side — I kind of jumped the fence. This is my pure motivation and this is how I look at my job — I always remember that I used to be there.

As a professional, now it’s my fourth Tour. I really love to keep it fresh and not to look at the Tour as something too big or do too much thinking of “Oh I’m there and I’m doing this and that” — you lose the focus and the mood in the team. We are working and living it stage by stage, day by day to keep the focus, to keep the mojo, to keep the good mood.

There are some friendships and intimate moments with teammates that stand out in my four years at the Tour. But funnily enough the quiet moments stand out too. There’s a lot of travel, there is the job to be done, there is the pressure — those quiet moments are great I think.

Fraser Hall – Aussie fan

Some fans will go to great lengths to get behind the barriers and interact with the riders at the stage start. We pumped into Perth local Fraser Hall near the BMC team bus before stage 1 ITT in Utrecht. He was rocking a VIP pass bearing Daryl Impey’s name.

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I followed the Tour through the Pyrenees last year and I know that if you’re in the right place at the right time sometimes you can get in to the VIP area around the buses. Here’s where all the real stuff happens so it’s a dream come true.

There was two of us waiting as much as we could in front of the GreenEdge bus and they came over every now and again — they’re such a fun team the Orica boys. I thought I’d ask the question and they said they’d keep and ear and eye out for any VIP pass they found. Three hours later; there you go. It was worth asking.

It was a bit of a childhood dream to follow the Tour de France. Being a west coast boy our SBS hours are actually much better to watch the Tour [than the eastern states]. Also it’s always school or uni holidays during July so I’d always waste my whole three weeks just sitting up from 8pm to 12am every stage.

I used to study and live in Copenhagen, Denmark so I was coming back to visit mates the last two years anyway and it was a perfect stopover in between.

Henri – Colnago aficionado

In the days before the Tour de France began in Utrecht a heatwave swept through The Netherlands. Indeed, the stage 1 ITT was raced in sweltering conditions with the temperature nudging 35 degrees. Which is why it was a surprise to see this fan waiting by the team buses wearing a big, thick woolen jumper.

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No, I’m not hot. *laughs*

I have three Colnagos: an MTB, a cyclocross and a road bike. I’ve been following the Tour for 35 years. I’ve written down the first three place-getters after every stage of the Tour in that time.

I’ve been to the Tour lots of times and I’m here for four days this time. I come from a town near Utrecht so I just caught the train in.

I hope Tom Dumoulin can win this stage — I’d say he has an 80% chance. My favourite riders are Fabian Cancellara and Alberto Contador — great riders. But Romain Bardet and Thibaut Pinot — I like to watch them too. They are the future.

Members of The Buccaneers cycling team, South Africa

We spotted this lively group at the Grand Depart in Utrecht, heading over to watch their favourite riders in the ITT.

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MTN-Qhubeka is a huge thing in Africa. We’ve got three South Africans, a couple of guys from Italy, an Australian, we’ve got an American, and we’ve got Eritreans. For Africa it’s the biggest thing that can happen — we get a world-wide audience for Africa and we can hope that the team gets better and better.

Everyone will be having a BBQ today having a few beers and looking out for the team. All our mates will be wishing they were here today.

This is just a break for us to come and see some friends, drink some beer and watch some cycling. We’ve been into cycling for like 20 years now. You know the Argus Cycling Tour? The biggest cycling tour in the world? Well, we’ve done it every year for the last 19. You can have my autograph, no problem.

Andrew Gerrans – Orica-GreenEdge osteopath

We caught Simon Gerrans’ brother Andrew standing near the start of stage 1. Despite being the team’s osteopath, he was in soigneur mode, handing out bottles and towels to the Orica-GreenEdge riders.

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I’m the osteopath for the team. So I’m there to manage and hopefully prevent some of the injuries and I deal with those sorts of things — rehab and prehab.

During the day I’m here to help out anyone else that needs a hand … but once we get back to the hotel I’m involved in treating the guys as needed. They get a massage from the masseurs and if need be they come and see me and I try and sort out any imbalances they’ve got in their bodies or any niggles they’ve got during the stage.

Right through university I was working with cyclists back in Australia and then in 2009 I actually did a year with Cervelo when Simon was there. I’m full-time with Orica-GreenEdge now and I’m living in Girona, Spain, which is where half the team is based. I go to and from races and in between I’m there in Girona to treat riders when they’re at home and in need of some work.

This is my third year with the team and my third Tour de France. The team time trial win at the tour two years ago in Nice is probably the biggest highlight, which put Simon in the yellow jersey obviously.

The feature image shows a young Dutchman by the name of Sietse. He was a volunteer (or ‘Tourmaker’) at the Utrecht Grand Depart and was assigned the task of providing assistance to Astana staff on stage 1.
 

Like most Dutch people he rides a bike and he has been ‘interested in’ the Tour de France since he was a young boy. He applied for a volunteer position with two of his mates and spent two days working behind the scenes.

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