Covering le Tour de France - one team's trip report

Yikes - from Reuters:

Allo Paris, we have a problem
I have just returned from a trip to Toulouse in southern France. The main reason for the trip was to drive down from Paris with a replacement people carrier for our 7-man Reuters pictures team covering the month-long Tour de France cycle race. I was also somewhat concerned about the state of the team's morale after the latest in a series of setbacks that has plagued our crew since the Tour's unusual departure from London.

The Tour de France is a logistical nightmare. We start preparations the best part of a year in advance due to its unique continually-moving nature. Hotel accommodation, communications and transport are hard to assure when some 4000 people descend on the tiny towns in deep rural France.

Our crew is made up of two mobile photographers , Eric Gaillard and Stephano Rellandini each with our regular professional motorcyclists Jacques Clawey and Michel Vatel driving them. A large camping car, used as our mobile bureau, is driven overnight to the following day's arrival site by team leader Jacky Naegelen. This assures us a good position in the Technical zone close to the arrival line. Lastly our Renault Espace mobile transmission vehicle driven by a third photographer, Vincent Kessler and manned by journalism student Ian Langsdon who sits in the back to edit and transmit pictures by GPRS or 3G. This vehicle drives a few kilometres ahead of the race and picks up discs from the two shooters on motorcycles throughout each stage. It also carries all the extra equipment too cumbersome for a motorcycle and the personal bags (packed for a month away from home) of our motorcyclists, photographers and editor. So, all in all, we strive to leave as little to chance as possible. But sometimes, I guess, chance just insists on working against us.

Despite immaculate preparation by team leader Jacky Naegelen, a veteran of some 20 TDF's, our own mobile transmission vehicle, a 1-year-old Renault Espace turbo, still under guarantee, was not released from its pre-Tour checkup at Renault because of a consistent problem of the battery discharging. Renault was unable to pinpoint the problem and by the time we were ready to leave for the Tour, our car was still in a thousand pieces in the shop. So Renault, after much insistence, loaned us a similar vehicle for the duration of the Tour. Then we had re-kit this vehicle at the last minute with the special aluminium rear editing desk, radio communications and antennas. We also had to change all the paperwork with the Tour organisers, so the mood took a downturn. But the crew took off that afternoon and headed for London.

The trip started in London with parking tickets and a camera theft and proceeded downhill from there leading up to this:


Nobody was injured but the race had to be re-routed to a different road. They were driving and their car (a Renault) burst into flames. The opened the back hatch door and started tossing their camera and computer bags out of the vehicle but the flames got too intense and they bailed. The car started sparking and throwing burning bits of itself all over the bags causing them to burn. The second picture is several tens of thousands of dollars of camera bodies, lenses and one laptop. Ouch!

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on August 1, 2007 9:54 AM.

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