Greg Hull, Tour de France 2015

Behind the scenes at the Tour de France

Cover photo: Greg Hull shooting at Tour de France 2015
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


No matter which bike race we are covering, rarely a day goes by without people telling us how they wished they could do what we do. It’s true, covering pro cycling is pretty cool.

But, it’s also a lot of work. We multitask and function on little sleep to get it done – and, we honestly rarely accomplish everything we want to in a day before it’s time to move on to the next town. So, I thought I’d share what it’s like with life on the road covering the Tour de France. I chose stage 3 which began in Antwerp and ended on the Mur de Huy to provide a glimpse into our day.

7:00 am

First thing each morning, after attempting to remember what town we are in, is to grab the laptop, check social media, post the day’s route map, and have a look again at the technical race guide to plan the day.

Each race provides a technical race guide for the teams, support staff, and media that contains route information, time schedules, maps, parking locations, team hotels and host city information. It is frequently referred to as the “race bible.”

A day at the Tour de France
A day at the Tour de France
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

8:00 am

Following a quick shower and jamming everything back in the bags, it’s back to editing photos from the day before. We each typically shoot several hundred to a thousand images in a day, so many photos will remain unedited until after the race.

A day at the Tour de France
A day at the Tour de France
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

11:00 am

At this stop, we stayed in the same hotel as Movistar. Heading down to check out, we step off the elevator into a lobby filled with fans waiting in hopes of getting a photo or autograph from Quintana or Valverde.

Not disappointing, Valverde appears just after us and stops for photos with fans.

A day at the Tour de France
A day at the Tour de France
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We head out the door and make our way behind the Movistar guys to the stage start, which is about a 10-minute walk from the hotel through the crowds.

Huy, Belgium
From the window of the car – Huy, Belgium Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

We also frequently hear, “You get to see so many awesome places.” Yes, sort of. We see a lot of hotel rooms, whatever is along the side of the road as we head from start to finish each day and the scenery at the starts and finishes.

Unfortunately, there is rarely – make that never – anytime for sightseeing or exploring the beautiful host cities we find ourselves in each day. Some of the sights are stunning, such as the stage 3 start location in the center of Antwerpen/Antwerp/Anvers (it’s Antwerpen in Dutch-Flemish, Antwerp in English, Anvers in French) and at the finish in Huy.

Tour de France 2015
Tour de France 2015 Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Shooting the start is the most relaxed part of each day. Riders are casual as they sign in, which at the Tour de France, is actually a push of a button by each rider creating an electronic signature.

Tommy Voeckler, Tour de France 2015
Tour de France 2015 Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Following sign in, riders stop by the PowerBar tent for some snacks, chat with one another, and sign autographs for fans. On this morning, Tommy Voeckler also stopped by the Vittel water station and used some water from the melted ice to wash his tires.

Tour de France 2015
Tour de France 2015 Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

As sign-in grows to a close, we head to the start line. Each day actually has two starts – an unofficial start, where we were near the sign-in and an official start after a parade route/neutral zone. The riders line up, and after they depart, they ride through the neutral zone and then stop again for another ceremony and the official start.

Tour de France 2015 Stage 3 start
Tour de France 2015 Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

As soon as the riders set off, we grab a takeout lunch and head for the car. Next stop, Huy.

Meanwhile back in Boulder….

 

A 1:00 pm start in Belgium means a 5:00 am start in Colorado when Todd Hofert rolls out of bed, turns on the race and begins to write. The one disadvantage of covering a race in person is that you actually see very little of it. We have the app on our phones and in Europe, the race is streamed on the Tour website with the ability to switch between moto feeds, which is really cool.

However, in reality, the majority of our day is spent navigating the off-course itinerary and editing a few photos to put up during the race. Some days we intersect with the actual race course for some mid-stage coverage, but not on this stage as we anticipated (correctly) that the Mur de Huy would be quite crowded.

Which brings us back to Todd, who writes the stage recap as it happens throughout the race, capturing the events as they occur, which on stage 3, included some serious crashes.

3:20 pm

Like Hansel and Gretel and their breadcrumbs, the race leaves a trail of signs for us to follow on an alternate route from the race to guide us from the start city to the finish line. In many locations, we actually drive the last part of the race route, which is quite helpful in understanding the last kilometers of the race course.

On the way through Huy a couple of guys stopped us and asked for a ride, so they piled in the back and we headed up the hill.

Press parking and the press center is normally very close to the finish line at races. We typically stop by the press center to grab water, head out to scout our locations to shoot the finish, then wait.

5:28 pm

The riders hit the finish line, with today’s winner being Team Katusha’s Joaquim “Purito” Rodriguez. Chris Froome (Team Sky) was second and Alexis Vuillermoz (AG2R La Mondiale) was third.

Fabian Cancellara, Trek Factory Racing, Tour de France 2015 Stage 3
Fabian Cancellara, Trek Factory Racing, Tour de France 2015 Stage 3
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing), who started the day in yellow, crashed mid-way through the stage and was forced to abandon the Tour. Chris Froome (Team Sky) moved into the overall race lead.

Races are carefully choreographed presentations with thousands of people handling the countless tasks that occur each day in multiple locations. Podium at the Tour de France is managed down to the last detail, with a “director” changing the stage background with the push of a button as each jersey is presented and cueing timing with signs.

A day covering the Tour de France
A day covering the Tour de France
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

After shooting podium, we head back into the press center, which at the Tour is massive. Todd’s article is usually in my inbox when I sit down and power up my computer and TravelWifi, our personal wifi. Travel Wifi is a sponsor and is what’s keeping us connected throughout the entire Tour no matter where we happen to be – in our hotel, in our car, in the press center, or out shooting on course.

Results go up, the recap article gets added, we each quickly edit & add the finish line and podium photos. Rider comments are added as they are obtained.

A day covering the Tour de France
A day covering the Tour de France – press tent
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

7:00 pm

Time to head out for our hotel  – always a slow process as the thousands of cars leave the parking areas and head through the small European streets.

A day covering the Tour de France
A day covering the Tour de France
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Our stage 3 hotel was in Namur, about 40 km away. Planning and scheduling hotels for the entire Tour took a little over three days of work and has to be done after host cities are announced but before the actual race route is published, which takes a bit of guesswork and a lot of searching.

We arrive and the guys we gave a ride up the hill were sitting in our hotel lobby. Quelle coïncidence!

9:00 pm

Time for wine, dinner and editing photos. We head to the bar, grab a table near a power outlet, and begin to work again.

A day covering the Tour de France
A day covering the Tour de France
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

11:00 pm – 1:00 am

Back upstairs for more work. Stage 4 is the cobble stage, so we make our plans on which sectors to cover then decide to call it a day at 1:00 am.

A day covering the Tour de France
A day covering the Tour de France
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

One day of 21 at the Tour de France.

A day covering the Tour de France
A day covering the Tour de France – Kim Hull shooting near finish line
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Tejay Van Garderen, BMC Racing Team, Tour de France 2015 Stage 5

Looking ahead to Week Two at the Tour de France

Cover: Tejay Van Garderen, BMC Racing Team, Tour de France 2015
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Todd Hofert


Following a hectic first week of the Tour, there are few who can say things have gone to plan. The same holds true for the pre-race favorites. What was dubbed the fantastic four, Contador, Froome, Nibali and Quintana, is now down to three plus one as Tejay Van Garderen has added his name to the marquee with a solid week of racing and Vincenzo Nibali has all but excused himself.

BMC would see themselves pip Team Sky by one second for the Stage 9 Team Time Trial win with Quintana’s Movistar notching an impressive third just four seconds back of Sky. Contador and Tinkoff-Saxo would give away twenty-eight seconds to the winning time and all but eliminate any chance Peter Sagan would have to claim a yellow jersey. Nibali and Astana would round out the top five, 35 seconds back, leaving Nibs on the outside looking in at 2:22 on GC.

Vincenzo Nibali, Astana Pro Team, Tour de France 2015 teams presentation
Vincenzo Nibali, Astana Pro Team, Tour de France 2015 teams presentation Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

A well-deserved rest day awaited the riders following the TTT and the transfer to Pau. Looking ahead, the rest will be short as the Pyrenees are laying in wait. If week one was an endeavor of limiting losses, week two will serve up opportunities to consolidate or to make a move.

The big news coming out of the rest day is the unfortunate announcement by Ivan Basso that he has been diagnosed with testicular cancer and will leave the Tour immediately. He had been suffering pain and an examination by team doctors led him to the hospital for more extensive testing that resulted in the diagnosis early Monday morning. There has been an outpouring of support and we wish him well in his upcoming treatment and recovery.

Tour-de-France-2015-Stage-10-profile1.png

Stage 10 on Tuesday will take the riders from Tarbes to La Pierre-Saint-Martin, a short-ish 167km route across three relatively benign category 4 climbs and on to a summit finish on the hors catergorie La Pierre-Saint-Martin (1,610 m 15.3 kilometre-long climb at 7.4%). The cat 4 climbs are not likely to soften up the group enough to result in significant time gaps amongst the leaders, but given the time that both Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana have given up in week one, they will have no choice but to attack and make the most of their opportunities if they want to retain the label of contender. Whether or not the La Pierre offers those opportunities we’ll have to wait and see.

LN1A9734
Tour de France 2015 Stage 8 Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

The Stage 11 trek will take the race from Pau / Cauterets – Vallée de Saint-Savin, 188km. The climbing gets a little more serious crossing a total of six categorized climbs including the cat 1 Col d’Aspin (1,490 m 12 kilometre-long climb at 6.5%) and the venerable hors categorie Col du Tourmalet (2,115 m17.1 kilometre-long climb at 7.3%) before finishing atop the category 3 Côte de Cauterets (6.4 kilometre-long climb at 5%). While the profile may look daunting, the terrain between climbs should offer ample opportunity for the main race to regroup in advance of the finish. Rest assured there will be a break trying to steal away the mountain points and a chance to don the coveted Polka-Dot Jersey.

Tour-de-France-2015-Stage-11-profile.png

On Thursday The Tour offers up a classic day in the Pyrenees on the roads from Lannemezan to Plateau de Beille. Now day three in the mountains we should start to see a refinement of the top twenty of this years Tour. The finish on the feared hors categorie Plateau de Beille (15.8 kilometre-long climb at 7.9%) is one for the pure climbers. It will offer a premium opportunity for the likes of Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana to take some time back. Conversely Chris Froome may well see an opportunity to seize total control of the race. And where will Tejay Van Garderen shake out in the end. This will be a pivotal day in his quest for a Tour podium. A jour sans or day without, on Stage 12 could ruin that plan.

Tour-de-France-2015-Stage-12-profile.png

Stage 13 on Friday should bring with it some respite as the race rolls out of the high mountains of the Pyrenees. The transitionary stage over 198.5km from Muret to Rodez will offer a stage win opportunity for the sprinters who have the legs left to get themselves over the three categorized climbs mid stage. With the Alps on the horizon this is one of the few remaining chances left for glory for the fast men before the Champs-Élysées.

Tour-de-France-2015-Stage-13-profile.png

The stage on Saturday looks eerily familiar to the early stages ending on the Mur de Huy and the Mur de Bretagne. The 178.5km route from Rodez to Mende finishes on the Côte de la Croix Neuve. The climb of 3 kilometres at over 10% serves up the perfect launch pad for riders like Rodriguez, Valverde, Van Avermaet, and even Nibali if his form has returned by this point in the race. The GC contenders, as evidenced in week one, will certainly be present and accounted for as well. A stage win is up for grabs but there should be little impact on the GC.

Tour-de-France-2015-Stage-14-profile.png

Thomas Voeckler, Team Europcar, Tour de France 2015 teams presentation
Thomas Voeckler, Team Europcar, Tour de France 2015 teams presentation Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Rounding out week two, Sunday’s stage from Mende to Valence should be anything but a casual roll through the scenic Rhone Valley. This stage sets up well for a bunch sprint before arriving in Paris a week later. A few climbs are smattered about on a stage that starts 731m above sea level, reaches a high point of 1,223m with 113km to go then descends for the majority of the day. If a break can stay away across the top of the category 2 climb of Col de l’Escrinet (787 m 7.9 kilometre-long climb at 5.8%) the backside descent and largely flat 56km run in to the finish could potentially spoil the day for the sprinters. I would expect to see a rider like Thomas Voeckler showing his contorted face and tongue in a break.

A rest day, the Alps and of course Paris will be in sight for the riders that remain following what is sure to be a tough and exciting second week of racing.

Adam Hansen, André Greipel, Lotto-Soudal, Tour de France 2015

Lotto Soudal talks delivering Greipel to the line & more

Cover: Adam Hansen, André Greipel, Lotto-Soudal, Tour de France 2015
Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull


Lotto Soudal kicked off the Tour de France team presentations to be held this week, holding theirs at home in Antwerpen on Tuesday afternoon.

Each of the riders commented on the Tour and their role with the team, which is strongly focused on delivering André Greipel to victory on the sprint stages.

Greg Henderson, Adam Hansen, Lotto-Soudal, Tour de France 2015
Greg Henderson, Adam Hansen, Lotto-Soudal, Tour de France 2015 Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Discussing on his job at the 200-meter mark, Greg Henderson brought insight to the critical time and the difficulty in doing so…

Everyone can be at the front at 5 or 6km out but, when we decide now’s the time to go and on what side of the road that we’re going, then it actually becomes not a bad job. It’s a straight line. It’s 60 km/hr and nobody can move.

In the area leading up to that, it’s very stressful and it’s very hard to keep it. You know, you see it on TV and you see 5 or 6 guys all in a line and think this looks easy, but to actually keep 5 or 6 guys in one place on one side of the road, it’s very difficult.”

André Greipel, Greg Henderson, Lotto-Soudal, Tour de France 2015
André Greipel, Greg Henderson, Lotto-Soudal, Tour de France 2015 Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Marcel Sieberg explained the value of experience in the lead out…

Like Hendy (Greg Henderson) said, the last 10km is really important.

You have communication, but I think over the years we don’t so much need to communicate in the final – it’s a feeling we have over the years – how to react and how to ride.

With Lars Bak and Hendy already a few years together and André – you react automatically in this situation.”

André Greipel, Lotto-Soudal, Tour de France 2015
André Greipel, Lotto-Soudal, Tour de France 2015 Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

André Greipel talked the importance of team trust and support…

I think before the start of the Tour, we are a strong team on paper, we just have to bring it on the bikes and to the finish line.

At the end, just 10 minutes before, I just need to look good. It’s not about me, it’s about the whole team.

The point is to get to the 200 or 250 meter mark and be able to sprint. I have a good team to support me there and when I see the banner at the end, I hope I can always find some power.”

Thomas De Gendt, Adam Hansen, Lars Bak, Lotto-Soudal, Tour de France 2015
Thomas De Gendt, Adam Hansen, Lars Bak, Lotto-Soudal, Tour de France 2015 Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Lotto Soudal 2015 Tour de France team roster

Lars Bak

16/01/1980, Pro since 2002, 1m90 – 76 kg, 5th Tour

Lars Bak, Lotto-Soudal, Tour de France 2015
Lars Bak, Lotto-Soudal, Tour de France 2015 Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Thomas De Gendt

06/11/1986, Pro since 2009, 1m79 – 68 kg, 3rd Tour
Twitter: @DeGendtThomas

Jens Debusschere

28/08/1989, Pro since 2011, 1m83 – 78 kg, 1st Tour
Twitter: @jensdebus

Tony Gallopin

24/05/1988, Pro since 2010, 1m80 – 70 kg, 5th Tour
Twitter: @tonygallopin

Tony Gallopin, Lotto-Soudal, Tour de France 2015
Tony Gallopin, Lotto-Soudal, Tour de France 2015 Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

André Greipel

16/07/1982, Pro since 2005, 1m84 – 82 kg, 5th Tour
Twitter: @AndreGreipel

André Greipel, Lotto-Soudal, Tour de France 2015
André Greipel, Lotto-Soudal, Tour de France 2015 Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Adam Hansen

11/05/1981, Pro since 2007, 1m86 – 77 kg, 6th Tour
Twitter: @HansenAdam

Adam Hansen, Lotto-Soudal, Tour de France 2015
Adam Hansen, Lotto-Soudal, Tour de France 2015 Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Greg Henderson

10/09/1976, Pro since 2002, 1m81 – 72.5 kg, 4th Tour
Twitter: @Greghenderson1

Marcel Sieberg

30/04/1982, Pro since 2005, 1m98 – 82 kg, 6th Tour
Twitter: @MarcelSieberg

Tim Wellens

10/05/1991, Pro since 2012, 1m83 – 65 kg, 1st Tour
Twitter: @Tim_Wellens

André Greipel, Lotto-Soudal, Tour de France 2015
André Greipel, Lotto-Soudal, Tour de France 2015 Photo: Greg K. Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media

Lotto Soudal Staff at the Tour

General manager: Marc Sergeant
Sports directors: Herman Frison, Bart Leysen and Frederik Willems
Doctor: Jan Mathieu
Physiotherapist: Tim Aerts
Soigneurs: Franky De Buyst, Vincent Monserez, Raoul Saren, Hans Van Hout and Kurt Wouters
Mechanics: Jean-Pierre Christiaens, Frederik Moons, Steven Van Olmen and Jeanick Verstraete
Bus driver: Mario Meeuwssen
Press and PR: Arne Houtekier
Cooks: Carol De Dobbelaere and Guillaume Barbier
Mental coach: Nathan Kahan