2019 was another exciting year for us here at Albion, as we continued to travel the UK and beyond in search of adventure.
From Cornwall to The Lake District via Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Yorkshire, we’ve seen more of our home roads than ever before.
We’ve also crossed the channel a few times too, our partnership with the Cent Cols Challenge taking us to the Ardennes in Belgium, the Italian Apennines and the giant mountains of the French Alps.
To end the year we asked Rupert Hartley, one of our founders and the man behind the Albion lens, to pick a few of his favourite photos that tell a story of our 2019.
When cycling people think of the cobbles they tend to imagine the spring Classics in Europe, but Britain has some cobbled climbs of its own that are the match in difficulty, if not history, of anything in Flanders. We spent a sunny April morning exploring some of the cobbled climbs around Halifax with our friend Damien Clayton. It is always hard to capture a sense of gradient in a photograph, but the stairs on the inside of the corner here really showed it. Lots of people got in touch asking us where these cobbled climbs were, surprised and pleased to learn such roads existed here in the UK. Damien signed his first pro contract with Ribble Pro Cycling this year and did fantastically on the cobbled climbs in the pro Kermesses in Belgium. Maybe Halifax was some good practice. Maybe.
This is from the Pan Celtic Race in July. Toni Calderon is seen riding through the Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland. This is quite a cliched ‘spot’ for a photograph, and an hour or so earlier it was absolutely rammed with tourists walking along (the location is used in Game of Thrones apparently). The photograph was taken in the middle of the afternoon, but a tremendous storm appeared from nowhere, and as a clap of thunder and heavy rain sent the crowds running for their cars, the road was dark and deserted as Toni rode through shortly afterwards.
Also from the Pan Celtic race. Chris Pitblado makes his way up the Stalwan Dam in the Snowdonia National Park. I knew this location having visited previously. The dam road is closed to traffic, and so cyclists and walkers have the amazing winding road to themselves. With less than 200km left of the 2317 total distance, this was the point where I realised Chris, barring disaster, was going to be the winner of the inaugural Pan Celtic Race.
Belgium, April. A flower seller sets up his stall in the town of La Roche-en-Ardenne early in the morning. This is from the first morning I spent with Phil Deeker and a group of Norwegians who were on Phil’s infamous ‘Hardennes’ tour. The Ardennes is such a beautiful region, and as Phil showed off his home roads, I was struck by the legacy of the War in this area. Guns, armaments and vehicles are seen in many small villages, all as monuments to the awful War years. I just liked the way the American tank sat in this typical market town square, as life went on as normal around it.
‘Mathieu Van Der Poel’
The final circuit of the Elite Men’s World Championship race in Harrogate, Yorkshire. The weather is of course everyone’s enduring memory of these Championships. I like this picture as it shows the world’s most exciting cyclist (and many peoples favourite for the race) barely being able to move forward, having blown up spectacularly on the final lap. I suppose it just reminds us what a fickle and cruel sport cycling can be, and it doesn’t really matter who you are, the legs can blow up if you get something basic like eating wrong.
This is from the first Cent Cols trip of the year, to the Apennine Mountains in Italy. In many ways this sums up how different a Cent Cols can be to anything else. Phil had ‘discovered’ this road by accident and was pretty nervous about whether it was passable. It was, just. This was an old route up the Monte Neronne. Slowly forgotten and replaced, it has been almost totally reclaimed by nature. There is no Strava segment apparently. Which tells you what you need to know.
This is from the trip to Cornwall over the Easter weekend. The UK was thrown an unseasonal heatwave, which was a sudden jolt out of Spring. This image of Kendal was on the headland over Millook, and I just liked the shoreline and the strata of the rock. This was a great weekend and not long after this picture was taken, we wrapped the shoot and had a couple of beers in a field on the headland as we watched the sun go down over the ocean.
‘Col de Sarrene’
Cent Cols Northern Alps, July. This was the very end of the few days I had spent on this trip. The heat had been pretty unbearable, as France experienced three consecutive days well over 40 degrees. The last bit of light was hitting the mountains as I waited on the Col de Sarenne to see the riders gallantly making their way to the end of another epic and punishing day.
This is from the Brecon trip in September. The weather had been almost solid rain for two days. In these remote parts of the UK, one constant on the road is the sheep you bump into. You might be out there testing waterproof jackets, but these are the ultimate weather-proof creatures. I just liked the way these were stood in the road, in a kind of defiance to the weather and anyone else up there.
This is from the Pan Celtic Gathering in Snowdonia in March. There had been two long, cold wet days in the saddle, and everyone stopped for a tea and a thaw in a cafe in Barmouth. I just really like this portrait, as Adrian warms his hands on his coffee. In the Pan Celtic Race he would unfortunately have a serious accident which would leave him hospitalised. Always a stark reminder of how the unexpected can occur when the edges are being pushed.
‘Through the van window’
This is again from the World Championships. Two riders talk as they make their way towards the finish after doing their work for the day. It is a slightly different view of the race going past, mainly because I was also just trying to stay dry!
Angus Morton photographed during the filming of ‘Coast to Coast’. This photograph is taken at about 0730 looking down the valley from Wrynose Pass towards Hardknott Pass. It is one of the toughest and most iconic cycling roads in the UK. The image gives no indication of how strong the wind was as Gus neared the last section of the 500km route. Mercifully the rain which had been falling consistently all night had just eased off as he came through the valley road.
Snowdonia, March. One of the great pleasures of being involved with Albion has been the chance to explore the British Isles much more. I’ve always loved forests and for some reason I just enjoy this picture. I find it quite calming. I like the almost purple colour that can be seen in some of the trees.