This year felt a little different. And some of these photos will reflect that. Perhaps they will be a little more personal than previous. More will be from when I was cycling myself, rather than just observing races and events. Perhaps good memories as much as anything. Turn away now if that doesn’t appeal.
As always, I am grateful for all the people and places that Albion allows me to cross paths with. It really is a privilege.
Not the North Coast 500. I knew this year I was building towards riding the Pan Celtic Race in July. My first ultra experience. I decided a trip in May around the top of Scotland would serve as both a good bit of training, and an adventure.
I enlisted my friend (and local) Chris Pitblado for some help and advice, and after some back-and-forth we had the makings of a plan which would see him join me, and put a locals spin on a classic route.
This picture was from one of the ‘additions’ Chris threw in. Away from the unpleasant busy roads and hugging the inlets. It was comically wet, but stands out in my mind as when I stopped to take this picture realising just how beautiful the ‘North’ was, how good it was to be immersed in this experience, and how lucky I was.
This image of Chris is from the following day. We had been rained on solidly for two days. Late afternoon the sky had cleared up, and as we moved towards where we planned to stop for the day, we were treated to a beautiful sunset*. I like this picture because it captures the last tiny bit of light on the evening when I believed for the first time an ultra was possible for me. Putting back-to-back big days together, and feeling totally at peace with the experience. Chris’ advice and support was a big part of me believing I could get round the Pan Celtic, and I’m eternally grateful for all he did on this trip, and more generally for me. *we ended up sleeping in the public toilets (unplanned). A rite of passage I’m told for long distance cycling/racing.
Steve – this is from our AW trip to Wales, to the heartland of where Albion was dreamed up. It’s a special place to us. We would ride through this valley at the end of a long day full of elation and tiredness. To be back there years later doing this was a reminder of how things have moved in that time. I spend a decent amount of time riding with Steve, and I like this image as it is a different view to the one I normally have of being sat on his wheel.
Further Pyrenees – it’s hard to sum up Further Pyrenees. Camille McMillan’s beautiful, crazy adventure in his backyard. I really enjoyed being out there for this. I didn’t see much. I made it to 3 of the 10 secteurs. Too inaccessible, too tricky to move between. And I was fine with that. I think having less coverage of this sort of thing is good, sometimes.
It was very hot. I spent 5 hours walking this secteur; a wooded hike, before opening up into a long valley which ended with a beautiful bowl of mountains at the end. The only sound was distant cowbells. I sat and waited for some riders to pass. Slowly, and with bikes on their shoulders as they trudged off into the distance, up and over the mountain range. I think this picture of Josh is a fair reflection of what taking on this event is like. Don’t expect to spend too much of it actually riding your bike.
Beccy Waters has kindly agreed to continue to run the Josh Ibbett Fan Club from South America next year, so drop her a line for all signed photo requests.
Pablo. The start/finish of Further Pyrenees was at the beautiful (and isolated) Refuge de Ruhle. Nestled at 2185m, inaccessible without a two hour hike, and free from the bother of phone signal. It is a magical spot. Potentially impractical for running an event from, but that is what makes it special. Watching the light come and go over the mountains for those few days was wonderful, and there are a lot I could pick out. I chose this image of Pablo. A serene moment in the morning light with a bowl of coffee, wrapped in a rug, soon after finishing. The peace would soon be shattered when Rich Rothwell came over the hill to finish, demanding to know where Camille was so he could knock him out.
Boru. This picture is simply a nod to a friend. There is nothing special about it as such. In June, Holly, Boru and I rode the Racing Collective’s ‘OxDuro’ route. A c100 mile mainly off-road ride along the Ridgeway near my home in Oxford. It was a great day out. Boru had been suffering from injury, and this was the first time he had ridden in quite a while. He was anxious about what it meant for his at-that-point still underwraps plan to ride round the world.
As I write Boru is somewhere in Vietnam, raising money for Mind and inspiring everyone he crosses paths with every turn of the pedals. It’s amazing and humbling to see someone putting themselves and their personal vulnerabilities on the line to raise awareness and money for a fantastic cause. And doing it with a smile on his face. Nice one mate.
Pan Celtic. There are plenty of pictures I could choose from my ride round the Pan Celtic this year. The 8+ days I spent pedalling round Ireland can’t really be captured in a single image. I look back on it all with great fondness. Ireland was stunning. You almost become numb to it. A lot of the time I was too tired or not in the mood to stop and take pictures. Simply moving forward was the main objective. I’m not even totally sure where this was. I remember looking up trying to see if I could spot where the road went, not daring to think it would be anywhere but up the steepest thing my eyes could see. A magical experience which I’ll always treasure.
Early morning before another day in the saddle. I regretted walking onto the wet grass in my socks immediately, but I wanted to remember sleeping in this dugout of a Gaelic Football Club.
Pan Celtic is a self-supported event. I found that you could spend all day pedalling alone, but as night fell there always seemed to be a headlight of another rider around, inevitably someone was also looking for a place to rest. A shared idea, good or bad, was often the path of least resistance. The chance of a chat and a joke was always appreciated. Gaelic Football Clubs are plentiful in Southern Ireland, and a dugout was an easy roof over the head. This one faced straight out to the Atlantic and I remember being freezing and giving up on rest at 4am, simply having to move to get warm. It’s funny how quickly this becomes normal.
24. My friend and colleague Charlie had set his sights on the National 24 TT in July. I decided to go and surprise him with a few hours of support on the roadside. Diary things meant I couldn’t be part of the whole thing. And only being there for a short amount of time meant I was not the one to tell the story photographically. I decided to stick a roll of Tri-x through my Leica, which is something I hadn’t done in a while. Slowing down, and challenging myself to try to make 36 frames work as one piece of work in a contact sheet.
This picture was just before I left. The light was almost gone. Certainly beyond 400ASA film. From memory the exposure was a 15th @ f2 (for anyone who cares a damn about that). These events are quirky and totally reliant on the energy and effort of volunteers. I like how the headlamp of the bike has helped frame this marshall, pointing the way for a weary rider to head out on another lap.
Here is Charlie out on one of the laps I saw. I was pleased with this frame. Manual focus, and getting one go at it is always going to be a challenge, especially as it isn’t something I practise much now. Think I managed to capture the movement, and the state which he found himself in for 24 hours. Seeing your friends do incredible things is a treat, and we were all over the moon as he pedalled over 470 miles to take the bronze medal.
Weronika – this is from the Zoa shoot in Wales. Weronika had spent the previous 6 months living on her bike, travelling wherever the wind took her, and camping out in the mountains. Bringing the first women’s Zoa collection to life, trying to do all the hard work of my colleagues justice was a great moment. Weronika was the perfect person to embody life on and around the bike. Seeing someone who has travelled so much enjoy somewhere special in the UK was brilliant too.
Dungeness. This is from the English Desert campaign, shot down in Dungeness. I just like this picture of Dave. I’d made an equipment change from what I had always used, and in many ways was a little heart in mouth about working my way round a different camera system.
Dungeness is an interesting, and strange place. A mixture of relics and wrecks on an exposed flat coastline, all over-shadowed by a nuclear plant. The strange concrete satellite dishes are what remains of a World War II ‘listening’ system for detecting enemy aircraft. Exploring the UK is one of the fun parts of Albion, and going to the only official ‘desert’ was certainly that.
Further East. Jack Childerstone is presented the winners sash by race director Camille McMillan. Most of my work is in colour. I processed this black and white, because upon seeing it, a friend commented that this picture could be from 100 years ago. Both men’s styles, and the sash give it a vintage cycling feel. Camille had wanted to capture the old spirit of a British bike race, with the riders drawing lots for a start time the night before the race.
Further East is grass-roots at its best. A no drive rule to the start for riders, and one tap in a field for water between them on the side of a barn. The camp in the beautiful copse at Camille’s parents house has an amazing rustic atmosphere. Local grown pears greeted finishers as the nutrition. A simple fire was the focal point.
Upon finishing Rich Rothwell said he again wanted to knock Camille out, but was accepting that he may not be the issue here…
India, South Downs. The first time I met India, she was taking Jack and I for a short ride on the South Downs. It was cool to get to do the whole thing with her in October, something she had done multiple times before, but was a first for me. We picked a weekend that despite the never-ending warm weather, storms were forecast. The greasiness of the chalk after the rains meant even the most gentle inclines required pushing sometimes. It felt like every km was hard earned. We dodged the winds and the fallen trees as best as possible and ended up eating ice cream at one point too. Thanks for showing me the way, and here’s to more in 2023.