This year’s riders of the Tour de France covered 3430.5 km (2131.6 miles), divided into 21 stages, according to the Tour’s official website.
What you may not know is that the Reuters pictures team covering 2011′s most-watched sporting event managed to tally up some 10,000 km (6213 miles).
I was excited to cover the race but aware that despite careful planning, any big job can have its moments of near disaster. After meeting at the Reuters office in Paris with team leader (and Italy chief) photographer Stefano Rellandini and French photographer Pascal Rossignol we checked all our equipment, made sure our laptops were working, that our passwords were valid and that Mifi was setup. We picked up our local phones and configured wireless transmission devices from cameras. One thing’s for sure — the planning stage is essential on a big job like this, and a good team spirit never hurts either.
The next day we drove to Vendée in the east of France, where the race was due to start and met with our veteran bike drivers Jacques Clawey and Michel Vatel. This year’s team consisted of three photographers. Photographers on bikes take two types of pictures during the race: postcard (landscape shots) and action. When you’re on the postcard bike the rules are clear: you can only take photos once the bike has stopped. Take a pic when the bike is moving, and you could be out. The ‘action’ bike’s rule? Don’t crash.
The third photographer drives the car to the finish line to take photos of the stage’s end.