Friday, February 8, 2008

Lance Who?

Back in 1994 I asked the sports editor of Charlottesville Daily Progress if we should cover the Tour DuPont. "World Champion Lance Armstrong is racing" I added, forgetting the sports department had no idea cycling had a world champion. After getting a solid no I took the idea over to the lifestyle section. "Sure, we've got a page to fill. All pictures, need it by Wednesday." And with that I secured what at the time was my dream, a chance to photograph the race from a moto rather than just the standard finish line photo I'd been doing since Tour DeTrump started coming to town.

A few calls later a moto was secured for the Richmond to Lynchburg stage. Gently rolling hills and a sprint finish for sure. At the start line I meet my driver for the day, Bob. I think Bob has always gotten "the new guy" as a passenger, he tells me all the dos and don'ts of being on a moto. Bob was a pro at this, he asked me what kinds of photos I wanted, he studied the map for the right places to go ahead of the group. Being a still photographer is far different than the TV bike. Still shooters get to blast thru the pack three or four times, no hanging out. It's the skill of the driver and how much he's willing to push the commissars determine what images you get.

After an uneventful hour on the road there's crackle on the radio. We're behind the peleton and over Bob's shoulder I see the Motorola car slowing. Lance has a flat. Bob stops an inch off the car's bumper and I get ready to jump, literally at the heels of the mechanic, for the photo. The Rainbow Jersey getting service. As I leap an arm grabs me. It's Bob, I can't hear him but he shakes his head. I don't understand. The photo I saw is gone.

We blast ahead of the bunch at full tilt, so fast not a photo to be had. I'm frustrated. I need images for a page and I’m getting a little nervous about what I’ll end up with for the day. Bob has gotten me nothing. We stop and I ask "Why?" Bob calmly pulls off his helmet and tells me, "It's the World Champion, you can't take a picture of the jersey in trouble. It's a rule." In my world of American journalism it makes no sense, maybe in Europe but not here. Photos of other guys show the chaos but it was the World Champion. Bob can tell I'm not happy. "I'll get you something good. Promise."

What I didn't know was Bob stopped at a place we could rejoin the race and cruise in the group for miles. What you aren't supposed to do. We’re in the middle of a big club ride in the country. And I get this photo. Lance joking around with fellow Texan Chann McRae. I'm not sure what's going on (I'd like to know the story!) but it’s the fun side of bike racing. Something you might do to your clubmates on a long day in the saddle. Grab a snack when they aren’t looking perhaps. It’s far from the greatest cycling photo ever but I like it.

When you see the photos by any of the photographers of our sport, know it takes not only their talent to see the moment but also their driver to get them to the moment. Thanks Bob.

Back in December, BKW was lucky enough to run into Chris next to an espresso counter and over the course of a few heavily Caffeinated beverages the stories began to flow. Lance Who? seemed like a perfect fit for BKW. You can see more of Chris' PRO images and read his random thoughts at Velopix.

9 comments:

Blair said...

Good story. I met(and got the autographs) of Lance and Tony Rominger, when the Tour finished in Kennesaw, Georgia. Thanks for the bringing up that memory.

Cheers-

The Sporting Life Society said...

Good Post RF

Dave said...

Old School SRM on Chann's bike

bikesgonewild said...

...great story...hadda be something for the local riders to race w/ an american in their midst, wearing the world stripes...somewhat inspirational, i would imagine...

Bobke Strut said...

What's even more old school about Chann's bike is seeing that the US National team bikes still had downtube shifters in 1994.

The 1996 edition of the Tour DuPont had a split stage in Raleigh, NC with a road stage finishing downtown about mid-day followed by a TT downtown in the early evening. Never mind that Armstrong soundly defeated Tony Rominger in the TT, the angle that the local TV news went with was how pissed off locals were about blocked roads.

My wife ended up with Tony Rominger's bouquet of flowers from the TT podium presentation. He was walking about 300 meters from the podium to the hotel and we ended up face-to-face with Tony in the crowd near the hotel entrance. I said something suave like, "Hey, you're Tony Rominger", he smiled, and said to my wife "Flowers for the beautiful lady".

Little_Jewford said...

Good story and great picture....1994 was still early in my education of euro racing and the bikes from that era were the original "pro rides" I lusted after. When I stepped up from a Bridgestone RB-2 to a custom lugged Spectrum (with my old 7 speed suntour S.P.) I modeled it after the steel Wordperfect Colnago's. I also LOVED those fillet braised GT's (I think they were F.B'd)...I still keep an eye out on ebay for one in my size...hopefully with a Mavic group.....for nice sundays...well one can dream.

10+ years later the spectrum is still my main ride, now with 9sp Dura Ace. I hope to get a new ride soon (nice taste in bikes + PhD/Postdoc does not make for frequent bike purchases) but the Spectrum is getting resprayed...I'm thinking a "owed to the Motorola" scheme....same pattern but in earthy brown/blue/cream...

ahhhhh...

toast ghost said...

Great post!
I grew up in Charlottesville and went with my dad to see the Wintergreen Mountain stage of the Tour DuPont sometime around 1992 or 1993. Somewhere I've got a photobook with tiny, crappy pictures, but one of them is of Lemond, in the bunch, on one of the climbs, with his awesomely corny lime green Giro helmet. My dad wasn't a bike dork, but I sure am now.

Anonymous said...

i dunno.. to me that looks like a radio problem rather than horseplay.. no?

Anonymous said...

RF,

Great photo, great blog, I read it regularly.

I took the liberty of stealing your photo for my wooljersey page detailing my attempt to reanimate a very similar 1993 Motorola team bike I acquired last year. If you object, I'll remove it.

http://tinyurl.com/32e4qa

thanks,
rd