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For as long as I have been covering bike racing I have always loved coming to the French Midi region in southern France. It is a region I first discovered covering the Grand Prix de Midi Libre, a race no longer in activity, but fondly remembered.
But today’s stage from Carcassone to Quillan would have been a classic stage in this old race. It was clear from the start that by Tour standards it would be what is often called a transition stage, a stage that does not favor sprinters, climbers or time trialers, and where a breakaway almost surely can get away.
I went out ahead of the race, uncertain if I would focus on the race or the landscape.
Wine vineyards greeted us almost immediately and there was a sprinkling of the iconic sunflower fields in the opening kilometers. But nothing lended itself easily to a photograph.
Suddenly though, about 40 kilometers into the race, we drove into a village and I instantly noticed this aging café.
Stopping a few meters later, I walked back. It was clear that the café itself was no longer in business, and as children gathered outside, I sensed that it had simply been transformed into a house.
Chatting with the family, I learned that the Café Vaquie actually belonged to the family. First opened in 1835 as a hotel and café, it closed in 1998, but the family has been living there since.
Lost in time, it captured so much of what I love about this region, and it offered me a perfect stage for today’s image. I waited for the peloton to pass and I set my shutter speed at 1/100th of a second. In situations like this I prefer to let the cyclists blur by to better focus on the backdrop.
The kids were excited to see the Tour come by and the father readied his telephone to capture an image of the cyclists spinning by the family local.
After the peloton passed we said goodbye and went off in search of another spot.
I really loved an image of Bauke Mollema speeding towards victory in the final kilometers that I caught late in the day. But at the end, it was the Vaquie family in front of their old café that resonated the most. It was a quiet moment in the Tour de France, but often these are the moments I most enjoy.