“Emotion”- Russ Ellis
November 19, 2019
When the team at The Road Book got in touch earlier this year to discuss providing the images for the 2019 edition, I was thrilled. The 2018 edition had struck me as a great addition to the cycling world. I was impressed by the unparalleled level of detail that the book provides, as well as its sheer size and its beautiful presentation. As a photographer, it is easy to see why I was so excited to be involved.
Immediately, I knew that a special book needed special imagery to match. Over a series of conversations, we decided upon a clear plan. Rather than selecting a number of stand-alone photographs from the world of cycling, we wanted to create a theme which would allow us to tell some kind of narrative story. Given the success of The Road Book’s essays, we wanted to create almost a photo essay, which would have its own story to tell.
Fortunately, I had covered most of the men’s World Tour races. This meant that I had a good library of images to choose from, stretching from sun-drenched shots of the Tour Down Under in January to rain-flecked photographs of the World Championships in Harrogate in September.
But there was a problem. I didn’t have much imagery at all from the women’s World Tour. I got in touch with two very talented photographers who cover the women’s races throughout the season: Francesco Rachello and Eloise Mavian from @Tornanti_cc. I outlined the project and we were all determined to make sure that we could fully represent the cycling year, including both men’s and women’s racing. Needless to say, I was delighted when they said yes.
The next challenge was which theme to choose for the photos. Ever since my first race as a photographer – a local 3/4 Cat. road race – I had never really been a traditional action sports photographer. I never sat on a fast corner, waiting to shoot each rider that would speed past. Instead, what interested me was the very human side of road racing. At races, I would always be restless, constantly walking around, always on the lookout for interesting stories and angles. I love watching spectators, or catching glimpses of riders with their friends and family before and after the races. Road cycling is full of small details that make great images.
Most importantly among these various sub-plots is emotion. Cycling is the most emotional of sports, capturing raw pain and suffering, and providing unique opportunities to capture the limits of human performance. Usually, these moments are fleeting, but photographing these small snapshots allows them to last forever – particularly when the images make their way into cycling history via The Road Book. The theme, then, was pure and simple: emotion.
When the time came to select our 31 images for The Road Book’s gallery, Tornanti and I both chose our favourite photographs from the year, particularly looking for shots that best captured the emotion of road cycling. It was no mean feat. Between us, we had a huge number of favourite photographs, and we also wanted to show the huge range of the cycling season: one-day races, classics, Grand Tours, and each of the moments in between.
We also wanted to make sure that the images featured some of the season’s key riders, including Loulou. Loulou started the year on fire in the classics before spending most of the Tour de France in the yellow jersey – only to lose out to Egan Bernal at the last stages. Bernal was another of the year’s outstanding riders, and he also features in the gallery, as does Mathieu. Mathieu’s season with Amstel Gold solidified his reputation as a current and future star of road cycling, as well as the other disciplines. Of course, the gallery also features Annemiek van Vleuten, following an amazing year that culminated in one of the best rides of the season, soloing 100 km to take the World Championship.
In the end we got to the magic number of 31 images, and I hope that you enjoy looking at them as much as we enjoyed looking back over the season and selecting these moments in time for you.