On Sunday I had the opportunity to thank the guys at Velo Plein Air for fixing up my bike, by photographing an event organised to raise funds for a local hospice, the Maison Marie-Élisabeth in Rimouski. It would be interesting to return to what effectively started my professional photographic career, and although I no longer had my selection of professional cameras and lenses, it would be an interesting challenge, particularly as it was forecast rain all day.
Jean picked me up a little after 7 a.m. and we drove up to the shop to prepare the bus and trailer. Jean’s job was to be backup mechanic, food stop and sag wagon and I was along for the ride to capture the event. Sign on started shortly after we arrived, with people arriving steadily over the next hour or so.
I’ve photographed and taken part in many of these events myself and it felt good to be amongst so many cyclists, checking out the bikes and taking in the atmosphere. If I’m honest, I miss this part of the sport.
Today would not be a race though, the idea being to complete the 40 km’s of off-road riding as a group. Once the pre-ride talk was finished, we made our way around to the hospice and a chance for the riders to see who they were raising funds for.
As it is French that was spoken I couldn’t follow what was being said, but I think the pictures capture what it was all about.
And then under darkening skies it was time for the event to get under-way as the riders made their way to the start.
We drove out of Rimouski to our first meeting place where we would set up a feeding station for the riders, a trail coming through the woods and crossing the main road. I wandered down the trail to find a suitable spot to get my pictures, something I was well practised in. You could hear the riders approaching by the noise of the off-road buggy’s that were acting as safety vehicles.
Given that my camera kit was now far removed from what I would use (given the chance) I was fairly pleased at what could be achieved with a cheap lens in very low light, and while not very sharp, the images were usable for the most part.
The rain by now was fairly heavy and my refusal to capture the riders out from the trail made photography difficult in the extreme, but both they and me were having fun!
Once the riders had all come through, we were off again to the next feed stop, on occasion following the riders along the short road sections and trails. I was also able to snatch some pictures from the comfort of the bus.
Once out in the open it became easier to capture the riders, though I had to keep drying off the camera and lens in the pouring rain. How I longed for my (waterproof) pro kit again.
We had a full supply of sandwiches, energy bars, water and chocolate milk to offer the riders at the lunch stop, where the whole group came back together.
As always seems to be the case, the rain got heavier as the event neared it’s end. It was however still relatively warm and Hans chose to go topless. There was no end of opportunities to capture the riders on the superb forest trails and I was enjoying immensely my return to this kind of photography.
At the finish the riders arrived in small groups, obviously split up on this last leg by the torrential rain. That they were still able to raise smiles for me was wonderful to see and ensured I also stayed photographing until the last rider had come in.
Then it was time to get some hot food, before lining up the riders in the still pouring rain for one last shot, a group photo. I was later told by Martin, the boss at Velo Plein Air that this event would raise $10,000 for the hospice. Well done everyone for a great days riding in what was not great weather, I only wish I could have joined you!
Finally it was time to pack away the bus and head home for some much needed rest. It had been a very long, but very enjoyable day, which the weather couldn’t spoil.
Please note: All the images from today will be available to download for free on the VPA website.