While attending La Résistance in 2016 we met Geoff Waugh, a photographer who was covering the event for British publication, Cyclist Magazine. We had the opportunity to stop and speak with him several times (a top finishing time wasn’t a priority for Podia) and hear some of tales of photographing races.
Geoff has been shooting cycling since the late 80’s when he got hooked on the Roche/Delgado battles at the Tour de France. In 1987 the Tour of Britain was coming right past the office where he then worked.
I had a vantage point above the peloton as they came along Southwark Street before swinging left to go over Blackfriars Bridge. Opposite me there was a large office block with mirrored windows and I took my pictures of the pack as warped reflections in the glass. It looked like a huge hall of mirrors with oversize legs and small torsos. I sold that pic to a magazine called Bicycle Action and I suppose the seed was sown.
These days Geoff only covers events when he has a commission, which usually means a mixture of sportives, pro training camps, one-day races and a few days at ‘the tour’ every now and then. But, he still has his favourites.
Cobbled classics for their brutality. Strade Bianche for the beauty. My heart is in mountain biking so I love to watch the wrong bikes in the right places.
Inevitably photographing races can lead to similar shots, some might say there are only so many ways to cover cycling. Geoff, however, is in a lucky position that he mostly works on assignments and avoids a ‘newsy style’.
I try and find new positions and ways of shooting every time and these have to be woven in with how easy it is or not to access them to be able to get out quickly…. A few years ago I shot some images on the Pave of Paris Roubaix with a 360-degree film camera.
At La Résistance, Geoff was on the back of a moto, being ferried around the course. We were particularly intrigued by this and wondered what kind of relationship and trust you need to build up with a moto driver. None it seems!
I don’t think I have ever had the same pilot twice!… I can tell when a guy is an experienced rider even if he has no history of riding in groups of cyclists, because he will be confident about every manoeuvre, be that moving up in the gutter or controlling the speed where I need him to be for a shot. I have been on bikes with guys who speak no English and I speak no French/German/Italian, but a shoulder tap and a point is normally enough for us both to understand what is needed.
It also seems that apart from some burnt legs on the exhaust pipes, Geoff has escaped any hairy moments on a moto while photographing races. That’s not to say there have not been incidents.
I have been shouted at when we got caught mid-pack on descents; luckily mostly on training camps. I have dropped kit into the road and got a bollocking for that too! I have seen other motos go down and cause crashes. I was on the Kelloggs Tour when a colleague was killed, thanks to an impatient car driver.
On a Trek Factory Racing training camp while Geoff and his moto pilot were shooting from behind a group, they felt the moto lurch ever so slightly. To their surprise Fabian Cancellara had caught up with them after having dropped off the back.
He had hold of the grabrail on my moto. He kept shouting for us to go faster to catch the pack, which we did. I was happily snapping away, making the most of the situation.
It is rare that Geoff forms relationships with cyclists like some others might, mainly due to his photographic style. Although a number of jobs with Robert Millar in the 90s meant Geoff got the chance to listen to his stories and anecdotes.
We were driving to meet Pergoretti for an assignment, just outside Milan in a fairly industrial area. Robert suddenly said “I hate this road, it stinks”. I wound down the window and sure enough it did. His memory of the roads where he raced and trained on was very impressive.
Back at the La Résistance event, the last time we spoke with Geoff was just before a long descent into Talloires for the finish and we just had the time to ask him about his favourite racers to shoot.
Well, not Chris Froome! It’s like trying to shoot a ducking and diving boxer!
Purito was a big favourite of mine. He was such an attacking rider, you can see a lot of Delgado in him – it’s a Spanish thing. I liked Cipollini for wearing a toga on the podium.
Currently, how can you not like Sagan? The boy can climb, sprint, descend and pull wheelies to order. He’s like the Barrie Sheen in the cycling peloton (enigmatic motorbike racer in 70-80s) and every sport needs people like him.
You can see more of Geoff’s work at http://www.waughphotos.com as well as his shots of La Résistance in an upcoming issue of Cyclist Magazine.