I’d call this the Day I ALmost Knocked Over the Yellow Jersey. How embarrassing would that be, as a first time cycling journalist at his first Tour to take down Sylvain Chavanel? You couldn’t live that down and the punishment is probably 5 years exile covering the Tour of Malaysia.
One of the best things about that press credential is the immediate access and up-close contact with all the best riders in the world. I’ll tell you that nothing is better than that “backstage pass” vibe, when you can walk past the barriers that keep the public out but you are free to enter.
Now, any fan could have gotten this shot, press or not, and I wanted it. Sylvain Chavanel, fresh in yellow, riding to sign-in. It’s always hard for both rider and fan to guess the exact speed, direction and velocity of the on-coming collision.
I saw Chavanel coming my way and I wanted to get as close as possible. I was in the right place at the right time and I wanted the shot. Every cycling photographer knows the frustrating drill: you’re hunting an Armstrong or Schleck or Contador and the second you’re distracted or put your camera away or go to this team bus instead of that team bus, he rides right past you and you miss everything.
I wasn’t missing this. The fact that I was at the epicenter of the Tour de France, dead center in the maillot jaune zone, was just too good. I leaned in, I didn’t pull back, I fired the extra shot at the last second. I got my Chavanel. It was a rush, like I was Annie Leibovitz shooting Jagger or Dylan or Zeppelin. My had a photo-journalist buzz.