Behind the Lens: La Vuelta 2018 (pt. 2)

After the intense heat of Southern Spain, the Vuelta circus has slowly meandered its way North, where  a dusty arid landscape gives way to lush mountains and a rugged coastline.

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With the last three stages before today’s rest day being summit finishes, this week was always going to be a photographer’s dream. Culminating on the legendary slopes of Lagos de Covadonga, anticipation had grown amongst the ranks of photographers all week. This one was going to be epic.

With eager anticipation, we gathered at the start line, shooting the formalities of sign on and the roll out, then hot footing it straight to the climb whilst the riders tackled the next 158 leg-busting kilometres before hitting the foot slopes of this monster.

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Parking at the top of the climb gave us an opportunity to scope out the best vantage points on the way up.

With well over two hours to spare, there was time to grab a bite to eat and a quick coffee at the press tent, an inflatable structure set up to keep the elements off. Not that it was needed on our arrival, the weather was warm with light winds and a relatively clear blue sky. After refuelling, we began the 2.5km hike to our chosen spot. We pas huddleds fans who had both walked and cycled to the summit, awaiting the arrival of the peloton.

With gravity helping us on our way we, descended quickly down the slope, arriving at the point where we thought the planets would align. We had a great vantage point, enthusiastic fans, epic alpine scenery, biblical light. All we needed now were men in lycra on bicycles to complete the scene.

I checked my watch for the 50th time. Still two hours to go, but all was good, passing the time tweaking position on the hillside and taking countless test shots.

This vantage point was high stakes, it was all or nothing, the photographic equivalent of putting it all on black. Positioned high up on the hill side, we had an unbroken view of the action that would unfold below. What could possibly go wrong? We had eliminated all of the usual proverbial spanners that could be put in the works, their was no need for a plan B.

As the time ticked down to the predicted ETA of the peloton, the view just got better and better. Wisps of low clouds appeared and the crowd swelled. With the potential for at least five different shots from the one position, this was going to be a bumper payday.

With 30 minutes to go and anticipation building, our enthusiasm was quelled by some thick mist that rolled in, obscuring the scene. After a few tense moments, this quickly cleared but left a nagging doubt.

With the entourage of race vehicles beginning to come through thick and fast, we knew the race was approaching. Unbeknownst to us so was a blanket of thick white cloud, low cloud, very low cloud, the perfect height cloud to obliterate the scene we had looked at for the last two hours. The scene that was going to be my payday. The scene that was going to have all my colleagues wishing they were where we were. 

A ripple of applause echoed up the valley, the leaders were seconds away and boom, white out. It was gone. Everything was gone: the road snaking its way up the cliff edge; the alpine views; the biblical light; the enthusiastic fans; the men in lycra. All invisible, shrouded in white, all we were left with was the soundtrack of spinning wheels, clicking gears and the cheers from those oh so enthusiastic fans.


Words & Images: Chris Auld

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