We’re not just all talk here at VeloVoices, although it does get boisterous at times! We’re all about the visuals as well and Kitty has been lucky enough to find a real VeloEye just down the road from her in Richmond upon Thames. Roz Jones is a cycling photographer as well as a partner in On The Road Cycling Tours. Kitty invited Roz over for a chat …
Kitty: First of all, thanks for coming to VeloVoices Towers – feel free to help yourself to the drinks trolley. First off, tell me how you got interested in cycling and who your favourite riders are.
Roz: I began watching the Tour de France on Eurosport in 2002 when I was at university and loved it. Like many, I was drawn to the sport by a certain American, although my favourite rider of all time is Alberto Contador. I like lots of other riders, especially those who are great with the fans such as Jens Voigt.
Kitty: Ah, The Jensie. I love him too. So how long have you been photographing the action at the races?
Roz: I have been lucky enough to get to at least one race each year since 2005, when my boyfriend and I went to see the Tour de France in the Pyrenees and Paris. I bought a little compact camera for the trip and loved taking photos of the race and got really into it. I then got a Sony bridge camera but it wasn’t until I got a Nikon D5000 that I began getting some good shots. I now have the amazing Nikon D3S so am itching to get out to some races! [I can see Tim foaming at the mouth at all this camera talk, and it’s not just his cappuccino – Ed.]
Kitty: What’s the most challenging part of race photography?
Roz: I have never had any photo accreditation for races so for me the biggest challenges are the other fans or, on one occasion, the professional photographers themselves! You can get a good spot on the barriers with a good, clear view of the road but as soon as the riders turn up, the other fans lean over waving inflatable batons from sponsors, the infamous green hands at the Tour de France or just one person holding their arm out with a compact camera just hoping to get a shot! In one fell swoop, any clean view is gone.
At the 2010 Tour, I was at the finish in Morzine and thought I had found a great spot just after the finish line. After holding the spot for more than four hours, ten minutes before the first riders were going to cross the line, all the accredited photographers came and stood directly in front of me, blocking any view of the finish line. Heartbreaking.
Kitty: Any top tips on how to get close to the action if we’re at the races ourselves? I’ve always found coming to the barricades at the crack of dawn and standing my ground works but I suspect there might be better ways of getting close to the riders.
Roz: If you are at a finish and it is already really busy, head past the finish line and look for the team buses. All the riders ride back to their team buses and sometimes they hang around outside. After a long day in the saddle the riders aren’t normally too keen on signing things – although if it’s something specific to a particular rider, for example, their national champion’s jersey, they tend to sign.
Kitty: What’s the funniest/strangest experience you’ve had while photographing cyclists?
Roz: That would probably have to be the Olympic road race test event. I didn’t notice at the time but when going back through the photos I saw that a member of the public had somehow managed to join the second group of riders! He was getting a few confused looks from pro riders …
Kitty: It’s a wonder he could keep up! I wonder if Team Sky are looking to sign him now. You mentioned when I first met you that you’re getting a site together for people to buy your photographs – is that up and running now?
Roz: Yes, I have finally got round to sorting out a proper photography website www.rozjonesphotography.com. So far there is a selection of photos from the Grand Tours of 2011 but I will be adding more soon! Through the site people can buy the shots for download or order printed photos or even framed ones.
Kitty: I have to say, I’m very jealous of you as, unlike stupid me, you were in Richmond Park waiting for the mighty Cancellara to come sweeping through in December. The only time in my life when being at the library was the wrong move. Just between you and me, was he the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen on two wheels?
Roz: I was very lucky that day! As soon as I saw his tweet I grabbed the camera and was on my way! He is certainly a handsome chap but you can’t forget the now retired Oscar Pereiro.
Kitty: You also run your own cycling tours company. How did that get started and what’s it all about?
Roz: I co-founded On The Road Cycling Tours (www.ontheroadcyclingtours.com) with former professional Marcelino Garcia and two others. Marcelino rode for ONCE and CSC, riding all three Grand Tours on numerous occasions and winning the Criterium International in 1997. Marcelino was our guide on many of our cycling holidays and we thought we could improve certain aspects of what was available for watching bike racing in style.
Using our combined knowledge and experience our aim is to offer the best cycling holidays to the top European races, staying in the best accommodation in the areas the race passes through. For each trip we limit the number of guests so we can meet individual requirements whether they want to ride a lot, a little or just relax and enjoy the race and all the excitement that goes with it. You won’t find us operating any trips with 30 people crammed on a coach! We also make sure we don’t eat in the hotel every night so include dinners at lovely local restaurants so guests have a chance to sample the best local food.
Our van is amazing with individual air-conditioning, electric sliding door, satellite TV/DVD player and of course a specially designed bike rack made by the same company used by many of the pro-teams. I demanded an electric cool box for days in the mountains so everyone can have cold drinks and a great picnic lunch with locally sourced produce.
We want our guests to have a thoroughly enjoyable experience and take care of everything from airport collections, travel to and from each stage, guided bike rides and of course the benefit of our experienced guides. When I first went to the Tour in 2005 we hired a car and with driving on the wrong side, little knowledge of the area, and road closures it made it all quite stressful. On The Road takes care of all that hassle!
Kitty: Those trips sound fantastic. Which is your favourite? What are your most popular tours?
Roz: Mmm – picking a favourite is difficult. I love each trip for different reasons as each Grand Tour has its own characteristics. The Giro and the Vuelta are typically more relaxed than the Tour de France. The Italian Dolomites are simply stunning and are a superb location for racing and riding. The Tour is the most famous race in the world with a super-charged atmosphere and the Vuelta is amazing and the spiritual home of On The Road.
Kitty: What would be the perfect race day for you?
Roz: The main ingredients would have to be an exciting route, preferably with a mountain-top finish, sunshine and a great spot to watch the race. We did incredibly well at the Vuelta last year. On the stage to the Angliru we went to the start and mingled with some of the riders and team staff. After the stage started we went to a typical Asturian restaurant for lunch and had a local dish called Fabada, before watching the riders go past just before the second-to-last climb. Marcelino’s superb knowledge of the area meant we then navigated the back roads and joined the mighty Angliru 40 minutes or so before the riders arrived. We then went back to the hotel where Quick Step were staying!
Watch out for more of Roz’s pictures throughout the year here on VeloVoices and if you fancy watching the Tour in style, you know who to call!