For years, I’ve chucked images that strike me in some particular way into a folder on my desktop. Some are ghastly or sad. A bloody Raymond Poulidor wades through a crowd, Tom Simpson lays on the side of Mont Ventoux. Others are gorgeous. A lone Federico Bahamontes, climbing an unnamed mountain in 1959, sharp as a tack and the only rider in shot. Many are silly. All hold in their frames a tone, sense of place and purpose. They set a mood. For a long time, the folder was simply called Photos. More recently, a friend started doing the same and called it his Mood Board. A perfect name I have since stolen.
Around this time of year, I always open up the folder and give it a scroll. We are about to set off on what is unquestionably the most difficult but also most rewarding month in every cycling writer’s year. The Tour de France is here. There are no breaks during the Tour de France, no weekends. No rest days, not for us. You have to enter in the right headspace or you might not make it. A trip through the Mood Board folder is mental preparation for what lies ahead. This is the sport we love and that we want to capture. Embrace everything it has been and will be.
You’ll note that my mood board pulls up short of the digital photography era. I of course have nothing against modern photographers – the incredible work done by Kristof Ramon and the Grubers has defined CyclingTips for a decade. But it is not mood. At least not for me. And this is a mood board. It’s also worth noting that the only photos I can publish on this website are those we have rights to, which generally means they’re part of the Getty Images library. Luckily, Getty is massive and I was able to pull most of the Tour de France photos in my Mood Board folder out of its archive.