Tour de France moto blog 2013 #2

Blog by Moto 514, Luke Evans, the driver of CW photographer Graham Watson’s motorbike at the 2013 Tour de France

Rest day two

Monday, July 15

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Talk is of a recent spate of thefts from Tour vehicles. A few days ago 50k euros of lenses were taken from the car of a Belgian photo agency parked in the presse avant area before the stage start. More than a dozen break-ins, rumour has it, and often from vehicles with expensive camera equipment.

The crestfallen Belgian snappers think there is someone in the massive Tour entourage who is acting as a spotter for a gang of professionals. That’s the ugly side of the modern Tour. Gone are the days when you could park up and walk away from the motorbike with lenses in the panniers.

Yesterday was the epic Ventoux stage and after working from the bike on the 20km climb I dropped off Graham at the final right hander before the finish and drove 100 metres to a quiet spot directly beneath the famous white tower.

I couldn’t see the race at all and didn’t want to leave the bike as it had a lens on it.

With the race radio switched off (it plays through an amp and a speaker on the bars and is loud) and away from the crowds and helicopters and screaming regulators all was peace. Looking down godlike on the fantastic views below for the first time this Tour I enjoyed the moment and the significance of making it this far.

What a day. You cannot come around those final long bends after Chalet Reynard and not feel elated at the sight of the creamy rock fields with the grey snake of road leading to the observatory station standing like a Norman tower in the heat haze.

An image seen countless times in books and magazines. And often with a British connection be it for Tom Simpson, Bradley Wiggins in 2009 or the respect to Tom’s memorial shown by David Millar and Eddy Merckx.

We got one chance to drop back for a shot from the bike of Chris Froome. He was slowly catching Quintana and we had to quickly get behind the Colombian for Graham to fire off a few frames of the yellow jersey. The TV motorbike also came across the mirrors but Graham got a clear view for a few seconds and that’s enough for him.

Shortly after that the regulators got in a flap and called us all out except for the three ‘pool’ motos which are the only bikes allowed to shoot the front of the race and must share their photos with everyone else afterwards.

We stopped, then dropped back to pick up hard riding dropped riders which included Dan Martin and Andrew Talansky. Both top riders but close-up the suffering on their faces was extreme as they both kept pushing to hold their places on GC.

Not every rider hates the Ventoux. As we took the privileged closed back route descent off the Ventoux Kiwi Greg Henderson, a friend of Graham’s, freewheeled alongside us as he headed for his Lotto team bus below.

“Beautiful mate!” he shouted. I thought he was being sarcastic but he wasn’t at all. This non-climber had ridden Ventoux for the first time and really enjoyed the views and no doubt super-enthusiastic support all the way to the top.

Then he tucked in so close on our back wheel that I could barely see him in the mirrors as we came off the mountain of the winds at 60mph. I had an extra glass of the local Cairanne wine that night and can recommend it for celebrating a truly memorable day.

Luke Evans, Moto 514