Behind the photo: how photographer Tim De Waele shot the Alaphilippe somersault


Photographer Tim De Waele has been part of the professional peloton for over 30 years. This experience and a share of luck – he said – led to the picture of the weekend at Strade Bianca. CyclingTips caught up with the Belgian photographer in front of Tirreno Adriatico to hear his story about this shot and his work in general.

“You never know what’s going to happen in a race, but you feel like something could happen,” he said. “It’s hard to explain. You must be able to read races, know teams, racers and tactics. You know the tricks and body language of the riders. You see, things happen earlier.

“This was not the first time Julian Alaphilip went off-road. He also did it a hundred meters before that particular place. Normally it would be a place in the race where we went to shoot landscapes because it’s 100 miles from the finish line, but we decided to stay. ”

“We” in this case – it’s Tim and his pilot Serge Seinave. They do a lot of racing together. A pilot for Tim as a second pair of eyes, as well as one who needs to safely move Tim and himself from point A to point B.

“I gestured to Serge to stay next to the TV motorcycle. Then the accident happened because of the wind. Alaphilip was not the only one who went down. There was also Thiez Benut, as well as Thaddeus Pogachar, who then won the race. Alaphilip was the most spectacular of all. ”

What happens next is the few minutes between the actual crash and the moment the photos appear online in the Getty database.

“At this point, you just click and hope that everything is in the spotlight,” explains De Waele. “You always hope the shots turn out well. Sometimes the light is incorrect or the shutter speed is off. We ride a motorcycle, so things can go wrong. ”

De Vaele decides, sitting in the back of the motorcycle, which photos are good. He checks them on the tiny camera screen and makes a choice. He adds a voice text note and sends them to the editing team in Spain or to the London office within a minute of their shooting. Two specialized bike editors do some work or crop photos according to De Wael’s instructions, and in a few minutes they are in the Getty database, where CyclingTips editors can download them and tell a story.

He has the same teamwork with his motor pilot. Before the race they make a plan for the day where and when they want to be.

“There is a plan, but cycling is an unpredictable sport. Soon the plan comes out the window and we need to improvise and anticipate. The race is changing, but the weather can change instantly. Serge and I do it together, and we do it with minimal communication on a motorcycle.

“He’s my extra pair of eyes because he sees what’s happening in front of us. He is also a former cyclist and knows the riders. Photos are a collaboration, probably 60% of me and 40% of him. I’ve seen a lot of pilots come and go. There are many drivers with excellent driving skills, but cycling is something few can do. You need to be able to deal with a lot of stress. ”

After a successful day on the Strade Bianche, where De Vaele not only made a shot but was the only one, he treats his pilot to a glass of wine.

“Chianti, of course,” he smiles. “It’s great to have that hit and I knew it was good, but being the only one who had it gives you a little bit of a hit. That makes the job so great. ”

Being on a motorcycle sometimes more than six hours is in itself a serious sport. And it’s not just the race itself. It’s hard work with 15+ hours a day from eight to even 21 days in a row. De Waele needs to keep fit to do his job.

“You have to be there one or two hours before the race, then the race itself, and then editing and cleaning. After Strade Bianche it took me a while because the white sand is not only very fine but also very sticky. These cameras are not designed for the circumstances in which we use them; sand, rain, snow. The cameras need to be cleaned every day. ”

Physically it is hard work, but mentally it is also very stressful. You need to stay focused for hours on end because you are working in a fast-paced and dangerous environment.

“I’m never scared because when I focus on work, I don’t have time for fear. You just don’t need to be intimidated because if you’re scared and not loyal, you shouldn’t do the job. This is an extreme job for both riders and photographers, ”he explains.

De Vaele really needed to relax after a day on the road, even if everything went well and he took off what he wanted. But accidents happen, and it is bad moments that leave an irreversible impression on the Belgian. De Waele sees riders throwing up after an accident, but also sees riders crash and don’t get up. He was one of the first on the scene when Water Weylandt crashed at the Giro d’Italia in 2011.

“Your first instinct is to always take photos, do your job. Don’t let the situation get too down because you’re here to do the job. In a few minutes it sinks into what you see. You see more than other people and I knew more than most people at home. I immediately realized that this was very bad news.

“Since then, Woother has always stayed with me, and his accident has profoundly changed my outlook on life. I work a lot and I like to work, but I also play, as they say, hard. I travel, travel, surf, meet people. I really try to enjoy life more because I saw Wauter Weilandt die before my eyes. “

Behind the photo: how photographer Tim De Waele shot the Alaphilippe somersault

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