A Lens Behind The Tour De France Femmes avec Zwift

In this instalment of Rolling With, we’re shining some Parisian light on a couple of the most ambitious, hard-working photographers out there doing what they love on the pro circuit; Twila Federica Muzzi and Andy Rogers. Jump behind the lens and glue your retinas to the viewfinder as they take in The Tour De France Femmes in all it’s wild glory. A seismic tour, with an infinite number of memories made.

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The crowd beat the boards in a rising clatter. The jumbotron tells them the riders have just a couple of kilometres to go. The helicopter chop-chop-chops in the near sky. The cavalcade of sponsored promotional floats and vehicles has long since passed under the archway.

The Tour de France Femmes is coming to the finish.

Somewhere amid the din and clamour – almost certainly fighting for elbow room in the line of photographers positioned just after the line – you’ll find two photographers, Twila Federica Muzzi and Andy Rogers

The pair are experienced at shooting bike races, but nothing quite compares to ‘Le Tour’. “It’s exciting and it’s hectic and… a little bit like a dream,” Rogers says of the experience. “Sometimes it doesn’t feel real.”

Muzzi speaks to the chaotic nature of working the world’s biggest women’s stage race. “You can plan each stage all you want, but it rarely goes the way you planned it.”

“It’s exciting and it’s hectic and… a little bit like a dream, ...Sometimes it doesn’t feel real.” -Andy Rogers

Even on the day MAAP hung out with the pair, they have been fighting for every bit of space.

“The media pit is a whole other level,” says Rogers “You’re trying to find your riders and then suddenly a soigneur is pushing you out the way to get to their rider, or a security guard throws you out the way for no reason.”

“I got pushed out the way by the TV guy today,” adds Twila. “I was like ‘Hey dude, we’re doing the same job here right now, my god!’”

With no time to recon the stages in advance, both Rogers and Muzzi rely on tools like Google StreetView and the iconic Tour roadbook. But even these don’t give a full picture of what a particular climb will look like on race day, or the type of shot they might be able to get.

“You really don’t know what you’ll find until you’re there,” Muzzi says. “You might think you have a long shot, but you arrive and there are fans in the way, or some obstruction.”

“Or a herd of cows is walking across the road,” adds Rogers, speaking from personal experience. “[Getting a great shot] is more luck and adaptability than it is about planning.”

"I really love it. To think that we actually have a Tour de France for women. It’s a really big thing. To be here on the first line, seeing the show close up, it makes me really proud. To think about where I’ve come from, to show people what these girls are doing, it’s really an honour." -Twila Muzzi

Muzzi has described seeing others, including the world’s best bike racers, use her images on social media as “immeasurable”, and both she and Rogers are aware how subjective their chosen medium can be.

For Muzzi, being at the Tour de France Femmes is a culmination of a process that began 13 years ago. However, it’s also an opportunity to share the journey, hard work and sacrifice of the athletes she captures.

“I really love it. To think that we actually have a Tour de France for women. It’s a really big thing. To be here on the first line, seeing the show close up, it makes me really proud. To think about where I’ve come from, to show people what these girls are doing, it’s really an honour.

Because ultimately, a good photographer is an avatar, an invisible part of the fabric of the bike race – lending the rest of us their eyes, taking us behind the velvet rope and inside the heart of the show. 

“I don’t think people realise how hard this sport is, or how many sacrifices these athletes make,” Muzzi concludes. “It’s a privilege to have a little space to try and tell the world what’s going on.”

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