Another year and I found myself in Nice and Monaco with the people in yellow again. It was a straight forward drive along the coast from the Spanish to Italy borders for me – a simple four hour journey round the social and economic spectrum to another world from my village of 25 in the south west.
We were a small band of pro and almost pro cyclists and a bloke with a camera in a yellow taxi. We stood out like a sore thumb but one that was seen here enough – in this home to celebrity to seem a normal-ish. A couple of days of heading up into mountains in search of good corners to exercise our professionals on lay ahead and I would finally get to play taxi driver in the big yellow car.
Timelines have blurred as they would repeating one section of a day over and over and then skitting past another in one take but I do remember a few outstanding moments of those days in the clouds with heroes and friends.
There was an ongoing conversation about Lada Nivas with Frank Schleck who it seemed had a collection of them, that to this day reminds me of his dry wit every time I see one. More privileged time on mountains watching really nice human and downhill demon Nicolas Roux make a bicycle corner at a speed and angle matrix that defies physics. And a continuation of the friendship that reconnects through lenses on famous cols dotted about Europe and a realisation that when it boils down to it, both Mike Cotty and I are essentially just a couple of giggling children.
There’s a lot of standing round for most people at a photo shoot. If given a filmic title, this profession would likely be called Days of Coffee but for the main protagonists in front and behind the lens it is a non-stop silently understood relationship of expectation and delivery. Less silent since the introduction of the walkie talkie perhaps but still as repeated over and over by that ‘just one more time‘ photographer insecure perfectionist achilles heel.
New incredible vistas ensued outdoing the last at every turn. Context glanced out of viewfinder for photographs that would never be seen with the frozen image. I suppose that’s what memories are for. Visual treats stored and only shared in the odd 250th of a second. I felt I knew more about night riding through alps, vegan pizza and the Lada Riva than most by the end of these coffee days and after seeing generations of these yellow cars from Peugeot 505s to Fiat Chomas through my life on television I had finally got to play taxi driver in the Skoda Octavia era of the present.
Then pulling back into the busy and sometimes eccentric road planning design of southern France that even confuses locals where I’m from, we approached a pedestrian crossing with two other lanes of traffic and all emergency stopped on a sixpence like a disc braked dance troop when one rogue element wandered out from her crowd still waiting for their green man, without looking up from her phone, headphones on, cocooned in a false sense of security at 120bpm. She didn’t even notice three lines of traffic stopping in time safely for her moment of thoughtlessness. What a way to end my first time as taxi driver that could have been. Breathing a sigh of relief along with the other lanes of traffic, a voice in the back said what we likely all thought ‘it’s not like you’d remember the car anyway‘.