Riding Shotgun

with Kristof Ramon: Photographer

Milan: Friday: 16 hours before the start of Milan-Sanremo.  We pull up to the accreditation centre, a strange industrial complex tucked off the ring road near Linate Airport.  When I get out of the car, I’m greeted with an immediate and engulfing hug by the fantastically talented Kristof Ramon. In a few quick exchanges of words, and a pop in to pick up our credentials, I’ve arranged to ride shotgun alongside him the next day, as he photographs the first of the year’s monuments.

Kristof is an independent photographer.  Many of the long-standing photographers of the peloton work in associations or agencies, but his unique style is hard to pool, and his vision so unique it’s best for him to fly solo.  Of course, that can be a hard path, an uphill for sure, but he pulls it off with flair, and always, always a smile.

We meet at the start line, and arrange a time to meet at his car, of course, Italia a Fiat Panda.  As soon as we are in his car, he hands me a radio “In case we get separated” he says.  True pro.

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“I map out each of my desired shot locations before the race” he explains.  There are 9 points along the course of 300 kilometres, and not much time to spare zipping after the peloton, to get back around in front to shoot again. “So we go right after they pass” he tells me.

I’m on navigating duty: finding the next location on the map and queueing it up as we pull into a location.  So we have everything ready to go when we run back to the car.

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“Oh… the race has been diverted due to a landslide” I tell him.  Ensue a moment of chaos, as whilst driving, we check the location, see how it will affect our ability to get around the race again.  All good. We choose a shooting location slightly closer to the highway entrance, to accommodate this mid race change.

We end up following the race onto the motorway (or maybe just the break….) let me say as money can’t buy experiences go: am empty coastal Italian motorway is surely high up there.

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We continue on until our next location. “Where’s the ticket?” Kristof asks as he pulls up to the automated ticket booth. “It was open for the race” I respond, and alas we are sans biglietto and the automated booth is asking us for EIGHTY-TWO EUROS! Kristof pulls a quick reverse in the car and scoots over to the attendant, who prints out a ticket and we hand him our much more reasonable 2 euros 20 cents.

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Off to the next location,  losing a few minutes in the toll booth gets Kristof there just as the lead bikes are coming by.  I volunteer to wait with the car in its non official parking spot and in a flash he is back.

There’s some hard decisions to make and quick thinking needed on the road.  All the plans can go out the window based on the race… For example, our time to location is cut by 10 minutes when there is a break of that time up the road.  But he’s adaptable, and always has a plan B.

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As we pull into the finish area he spots the ideal parking for his little Panda: within 50 metres of the busses, as the staff are preparing for the return of their battered riders.  We know the prep that goes into a race for teams. We know the months of work the riders do to peak for the right race. We often don’t think about the planning needed to photograph a race though.  It can seem so simple from the outside… hop on a motorbike, follow along…. edit, upload, do it again.  But these true masters, this artistry, it comes from an expertise, a precision that allows no errors or stresses to occur, to ensure the maximum focus on capturing images.

Hats off to you Kristof, and thank you for a wonderful day, and a real lesson on being pro.

Follow Kristof here @kristoframon or check his website: www.Kramon.be

Images: Laura Fletcher @cassette_media