Shooting: Final of the Tour de France 2021


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VeloNews and platoon Contributor James Startt, winner of the 2021 World Sports Photography Awards, covers his 32nd Tour de France. For this year’s Tour de France he will be providing a regular post explaining how he gets his favorite photos of the day and also what gear he uses.

Since 1975, the Champs-Elysées hosted the last stage of the Tour de France. This is where I discovered the Tour for the first time as a student studying in Paris one summer, and this is where I have been coming for 30 years to attend the last stage of the Tour.

The fields is, of course, one of the most beautiful boulevards in the world, and it offers a splendid setting for the final of the Tour. In many ways, it’s hard to take a bad look here. But the reverse is also true: it is difficult to take an exceptional image. Every angle, every place it seems, has been photographed endlessly, year after year. Of Triumphal arch at Place de la Concorde.

Every year I walk beside the Champs to the Arc de Triomphe hours before the finish of the race in order to secure my place in the inner corner where the peloton will look to the fields after doing the tour Arc on one of its eight towers.

For most photographers, this is the place. And this is where we all seemingly need to be to get the classic yellow jersey shot in front. Arc de Triomphe. But it is also an exasperating cliché, because the summer light in the early evening provides a terrible backlight.

Again, I posted early Sunday. And once again, I suffered during the whole publicity caravan that had gone wild on the fields make more noise than humanly possible. It was the price I paid for my choice of position.

And once again, I was frustrated with the results: when the riders first approached, I totally missed the yellow jersey with the sun in my eyes. The second time, I did better by backing up, but Tadej Pogacar was barely visible.

Tadej Pogacar and his UAE-Team Emirates team-mates bypass the Arc d’Triomphe during stage 21 of the Tour de France 2021. Photo: James Startt

It wasn’t until my third try that I got a good photo of the yellow jersey, helped by a good dose of fill-in flash.

But before going down The fields, I walked around the back of Arc where the Avenue of the Grand Army crosses the massive roundabout known as the the star.

The peloton for stage 21 of the Tour de France 2021.
The peloton for stage 21 of the Tour de France 2021. Photo: James Startt

Here the light was perfect, and as the peloton wrapped around Arc de Triomphe, it offered a perfectly balanced composition. And my 14mm wide-angle lens allowed me to get the whole peloton under this iconic monument.

I only needed to photograph the place once to know it would be my shot. Subsequently, I ventured to Place de la Concorde then the finish line.

But in the end, it was this cliché that prevailed. It is the most resolute image and the one that perfectly closes this year’s Tour de France, as it celebrates all the finishers of the race.

And looking at the picture I thought I would pay a pretty price to be one of those runners walking around Arc after completing three weeks of racing in the Tour de France. I can only imagine the satisfaction that a rider must have to be able to say: “I have finished the Tour de France!” Hat to all that has done!