London 2012: Cycling Time Trials

1/1600sec, f/4.5, ISO 400, 37mm

We return, for what is probably (and sadly) the last time, to the 2012 London Olympic Games (I’d love to go to more, but I never actually applied for tickets when they were released several months ago. I think they should’ve held over a bunch of the cheap tickets until after the Games started so that people not caught up in the Olympic spirit all those months ago could still have a chance to go without spending a fortune. But sadly not, unless you’re prepared to queue first thing in the morning with no guarantee of getting anything).

Day 6 of the Games is now drawing to a close, and Britain is finally has getting itself some gold medals. I’m a bit aware that some of you are in America and possibly waiting to see NBC’s tape delay highlights package, so I’ll not go into any more detail. But the point is, hooray!

Being someone without tickets, the only events I’m able to see are the road race events, where anyone can line the streets along the route to cheer on anyone (or, in our case, everyone, although the cheers were very, very noticeably louder when the Brits cycled past). I’ve already been to the men’s and women’s road races, and today it was the turn of the time trials.

The time trials differ from the road race just how you’d expect – whereas the road race is a pure race, in that there are a set of participants setting off on the same road at the same time, and whoever is first past the finish line wins (and if you happen to crash into one of your fellow competitors, then whoops), the time trials see the contenders setting off at ninety-second intervals, and whoever is the fastest wins. In many ways it’s a purer form of competition because it eschews the team tactics and strategies in favour of a simple comparison: who is the quickest?

From a photographic (and, I suppose, a spectator’s) point of view it’s also far more interesting, because instead of the cyclists travelling together in one or sometimes several small, clustered groups (the main one of which is called the peloton, I discovered whilst re-watching the races on TV), the racers come by one-by-one allowing several goes of capturing the participants, who are also on their own, making for cleaner images. Although this post contains a seemingly excessive 90 images, there are very few ‘warm-up’ style images of the police and support vehicles, unlike the race posts.

I decided to try to shoot the race in Kingston. Although the men’s trial came to Twickenham, the women’s route was different and didn’t come that close; Kingston was the closest place where I’d be able to see both sets of competitors. The problem was, the road to Kingston, and even the road to my alternate route to Kingston, was shut for the race, so I decided to make a round trip via Richmond and along the river which, it turns out, is over seven miles (compared to the four miles of the normal route).

When I arrived in Kingston I quickly scouted a spot, on Kingston Bridge. This time, the competitors were going across the bridge in the opposite direction, allowing me to find a position where I could shoot along a decent stretch of the road. I selected my 70-300mm lens as I got pretty decent results with it on the men’s race.

1/2500sec, f/5, ISO 1250, 210mm

As the cyclists went past, I experimented with a few shooting styles; portrait, landscape, really close, and the classic blurred background shot.

1/100sec, f/5.6, ISO 100, 180mm
1/1250sec, f/5.6, ISO 1600, 300mm

After the women had completed their route, we had to move as we’d chosen to stand in an area that would become the men’s route. We soon found ourselves on the inside of a tight corner. I initially decided to try using my macro lens again in the hope of getting some decent images of the riders’ faces, but after a few goes it became apparent that wouldn’t work, so I switched to my 18-135 for some wider shots.

I tried the same sorts of shooting as I did in the previous position, but the new location and the wideness of the lens made for some interesting shots.

1/100sec, f/10, ISO 100, 39mm

It got really interesting, however, when British cyclists and medal hopefuls Chris Froome and Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins came by. The roar from the crowd was amazing. Heck, we even made the news:

“It was really something special, just enormous, the support,” Froome said. “It’s something that I don’t think I’ll ever experience again”. Wiggins said the same, “coming back round the roundabout in Kingston, I’m never going to experience anything like that in my entire career. It’s topped off.”

All told, I’m much, much more pleased with these images than I am the ones from the other two races. I think it comes from having a little more time to prepare and fire off shots, whereas the races were total free-for-alls as far as photographing them was concerned.

I would love to go and have the opportunity to photograph more Olympic events. One thing I’ve realised from shooting these cycling events is that I really enjoy sports photography, and am keen to do more. I’ll have to see how I can let that happen.

I’m also very pleased with how the Olympics are going.They really are doing me and London proud.

12 thoughts on “London 2012: Cycling Time Trials

  1. Superb shots!! I am seriously an amateur when it comes to this sort of thing! I love the empty-road-expectant-onlookers shot! 🙂


    1. Thanks CK. I’m a total amateur as well, but taking these Olympic shots has helped me realise, I’d quite like to do this sort of thing professionally!


      1. Best way to start off! 🙂


  2. Reblogged this on ckponderings and commented:
    I seem to be one for reblogging at the moment, but these set of shots are stunning! 😀


    1. Thanks again CK, always nice to see a post shared 🙂


  3. Your shots are terrific. You were fortunate to be able to view these cycling venues. I know they have very strict restrictions on cameras once you get inside the Olympic venues. No big cameras with tripods unless you’re with the press. That’s what I’ve read, anyway.


    1. Thanks Cat. I did read some restrictions over a month ago that seemed even more restrictive, but on TV I’ve been people in the crowds with what must be at least 400mm ‘L’ series lenses, so the rules appear to be far more relaxed than, for example, Hard Rock Calling, where any camera with interchangeable lenses ‘longer than 6 inches’ was considered “professional” and therefore banned.


  4. Why, WHY dod I go home to Norway for the summer? I should obviously have stayed in London during the olympics this summer.. These shots are wonderful Rob, you have a great eye!


    1. Thanks Viktoria. I must admit, we were expecting things to be a lot worse in London than they actually are, helping make the Games a great event, even for us just watching from the sidelines!


  5. Great shots from amazing angles. Wish I were able to be there too. I caught up with it afterwards on the BBC website. Your photos are brilliant!


    1. Thank you. I’m really glad I was able to attend some of the events at these Olympics, and I’m really proud of the effort I put in to get the images (I covered quite a few miles!). I can’t believe the Games are over. Back to reality….

      Thanks for commenting!


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