Amgen ToC – Stage 5 – Moto Madness


You're in the peleton and feel the race ebb and surge. The big BMW powers through a series of S turns at 65mph on our way back to the front after a static roadside shot of the peloton. We do this all day for 135 miles and it's brilliant. My driver John is a 35-year veteran motorcycle policeman from Adelaide Australia. This is his first moto assigment in a major race; mine too and we have a blast.

There's no pressure and as a result we get a pile of good images. I say "we" because this is a total team effort between photographer and driver. The chaos of the peloton demands the full attention of all four eyes in this partnership as gaps appear and disappear in an instant in this sometimes bloody ballet of riders, team cars, and motorbikes.


Early on John pushes the bike and my nerve down the from Laguna Seca to highway 68. He tells me "no worries, we still had a good 15 mph more there... easy". I'm glad I'm wearing the Rev'it jacket and pants recommended by Luca, and the convertible Nolan helmet flips up and down conveniently when we're pushing on ahead for the grand vista shot. It's not easy to get the camera to cooperate at times but as the morning goes on the working routine gets better, I make a few gear adjustments and things start to click.

The big story on the day is all the work that Radioshack and Liquigas are doing. The two Kings; Ben and Ted are at or near the front virtually all day and when the hammer goes down and the peloton is giving it full gas, you can't believe what it's like to slide alongside the big train.

torn kit King on Front

Torn kits and bloody faces are visible reminders of the day's damage; a couple of riders are transported away after one of those random straight road accidents that probably result from a touch of wheels. A squirrel also become a victim racing across the road through the peloton and gets caught by a wheel. Rider stays up, squirrel goes down for good. A groan goes up from the peloton for the poor little guy.

Eventually we cruise into Pasa Robles where the town and the school kids are out in force. I shoot the obligatory finish pics as baby-face Peter Sagan stamps his authority on the sprint to reward his team's solid work all day. Juli has driven down from San Jose to pick me up and drive me back to Seaside where my car has been left. That's where I am now after sleeping the sleep of the dead.

Here are a few images. For some this tiny reproduction can't do them justice. Big prints are called for. Quick shower and shave before long drive to Solvang TT.

Beautiful spectators Radioshack on the front Two Kings Ben and Ted The Train Sagan Big Ending

11 Responses to Amgen ToC – Stage 5 – Moto Madness

  1. kurt says:

    “the sometimes bloody ballet”

    Nice to have you writing about cycling again!

    I’m getting excited as I read your prose. Wish I was hanging on the back of that bike. Just to watch.

  2. BR says:

    Thanks for such a great story & photos. The coverage from Versus really showed the strain on the riders. Looked like a great day and the road to Paso looks like a super ride.

  3. dag says:

    Holy buttcrack, that one’s going to stick with me for a while.

  4. razmaspaz says:

    I’m sure this was a dream realized for you. Hope you get many more opportunities at it. These are beautiful shots. I can imagine there was no way to get that last one without being on the motorbike. How else do you get that angle? The one of the Radio Shack train is magnificent. Looking forward to the TT today.

  5. craig says:

    I wish I could un-see that last image.

    • The guy was riding around at low speed pulling a trailer pumping out some heavy hip hop (actually his choice of tracks was awesome but perhaps not quite as awesome as those cheeks)

  6. Beth says:

    Love the words you used to describe the race. Great work. And that last image…wow…there are no words!

  7. Picture of the day for me is “Lardy Ass” google will provide something to add to the image but I guess you’ll ll get the drift.
    congratulations on your first MotoRide Michael a big jump forward for you. Another arrow in your tool kit and another feather in your hat. You’ll never look back now, the first ride actually shooting is now under your belt, so well done from me It’s a lot harder than shooting out the back of a van and yu get much nearer to the action too.
    I’m green with envy, I’ve never done that.


  8. Tim Cox says:

    That’s just fantastic, Michael. So glad to see all your hard work and persistence paying off. Almost lost my lunch on the last shot, though. Your point about the speed and power of the train at full pelt really struck me – must be fab to be in the middle of that. Looking forward to future posts — and the book that must surely be in the plans.

  9. Jon Moss says:

    Congratulations on the superb photos Michael – a wonderful day which I am sure you will remember for a long time!