Cycling photography isn’t easy

We pdxcross.com photographers dusted off our cycling cameras last weekend to photograph the Rapha Northwest Gentlemen’s Race. Actually, the dust gathered on the cameras as the race progressed. A good bit of this challenging course was up and over some grueling rural Oregon gravel roads that were more likely created for logging trucks than bicycles.

And when I say gravel, these were not the lovely, evenly-sized-pebble, well manicured gravel roads of my Nebraska youth; they were the rock strewn, razor-sharp, dust-encrusted, call-me-a-redneck-and-I’ll-shoot-you kind of roads.

Also understand that our group of merry photographers flying under the banner of pdxcross.com usually photograph cyclocross bicycling, which inevitably happens in mud over a roughly two-mile, louped course. This race, crafted by Slate Olson of Rapha, carried itself over 100+ miles of some sweeping, sweat-sucking, heart-pounding scenery. Did I mention that temperatures exceeded 100 degrees?

Oh, and Rapha is a British company that makes exceptional cycling clothing and supports stellar photography as the core of its marketing approach – I’ve written of the company elsewhere here.

So off we set on this day that would push even our limits - and we weren’t pedaling. We were Torsten Kjellstrand and his daughter Maria in her first week with a driver's license, Jamie Francis who had a blast on the back seat of a motorcycle, Tim Labarge who started at the end of the course and drove through and me, with my wife Deb driving our station wagon so I could pop up through the sunroof or hang out the back at will.

Making pictures of a moving epic like this is not easy. There were 27 six-person amateur teams on a stagger start, plus two pro riders – Ryan Trebon and Jason Sager – competing one on one.

My goal was to make photographs that conveyed the day. Not that this was predictable. I had to figure that out as the day progressed because we hadn’t seen the course, didn’t expect the heat and I wasn't familiar with this type of race. So I tried in the present tense to follow my mantra to convey qualities of what you’re photographing, nut just show what happened.

See what you think. These are some of my photos. Rapha will be posting a more complete set and we may then post more to pdxcross.com

Jeremy Dunn, of the Rapha Continental team, relaxes before the start, which was at Shafer Vineyard..The HUP United team at the starting point with Zac Daab's girlfriend looking on.

Early on, teams hung together but in the end only a few finished with all six riders. This is Studio Velo out of Mill Valley, California.

Conveying a sense of the scale of the ride was a goal. This is Ryan Trebon, one of the two pro riders heading up the first gravel road, called Pittsburg. Ryan, at 6'5" has to be one of the tallest pro riders out there.

And what a view from the top of Pittsburg Road.

Ryan Trebon and Jason Sager stock up at a roadside market.

Two girls couldn't believe how tall Ryan is, and told him so.

Things along the way reflect the quality of place, including this mailbox.

On the second big gravel climb teams started to catch up, in this case the men's Ironclad team caught the women's team that had started in the first group. The men went on to finish the race with the fastest team time.

Getting to the top of any of these hills was like winning a war.And for some there was a price beyond sweat.

As the day wore on, the sun got lower and the dust got thicker.

And the sweat left its mark.

Team Beer was among the few who finished all six riders, to a sweet conclusion.

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