In a once familiar pattern of answering the batphone to Specialized, being given a fly by wire brief and packing co-ordinates and cameras onto a plane, I landed in my previously native London and took a rare direction north to meet a cycling team on neutral ground – Corby.
Driving around seemingly endless roundabouts every couple of miles in that way that rural England route plans life, I realised while I’d not been to Corby before, I was not that far from many good friends in the motoring press that lived around here. Pulling in to the motel just off a roundabout as daylight dropped away, I took a moment to look through the planned itinerary to get imagery from the Boels Dolmans cycling team’s first impressions of their new S Works bike just ahead of the Women’s Tour of Britain. As one does, I had googled the area for applicable backdrops with minimal traffic and maximum scenery, but as is often the case, descending onto the island I once called home, through a thick grey shroud I saw this would be more about where they could even ride the bikes rather than where they could look good riding them.
Waking the next morning to a loud constant drip from the gutter overspill above the hotel window ricocheting off my windowsill I peered out of a greyed out window at a grey car park filled with grey cars and set about planning an emergency non-monochrome plan b. Walking around the hotel looking for breakfast threw up the only alternative, the beige and orangey brown velour interior of seminars and business meetings of previous decades’ local travelling business person. This was to be a sparkly presentation of a shiny new toy to the team that was going to look orangey-brown and seventies tinted to anyone that I showed it to through my camera.
Once again the fixer given this present to build and deliver and model by proxy was my familiar lone ranger Scott. Far from home, living a transient life with bike crates as I did with camera bags.
The team arrived in preparation of their forthcoming tournament heading out from these grey confines into the English coutryside the following day and contrary to my envisaged bright orange kits against lurid green fields and blue skies posters, their colourful uniform blended in a bit too much and every photographer’s emergency plan c for colour and lighting issues started to pop to mind…in contradiction of plan b, relying on the monochrome button in Photoshop.
A warm and relaxed atmosphere found it’s place amongst the team mates seated round the teacher like a school lesson as Scott explained the features of this new racing tool for their upcoming season and the general look in the room was one of eagerness to add one & one together to make ‘S-Works Tarmac on a turbo trainer’ before lunch.
The orange in the room that wasn’t upholstered started to cleat up and clip in, the space starting to feel a little less Alan Partridge and a bit more pro-cycling in answer to my cameras’ pleas. It’s astounding how well modern cameras cope with the worst of interior lighting moods, and even in the post film era that wasn’t always the case.
A morning of pedal turning and minor adjustments ensued, all seeming content with what santa had brought that day. For different reasons we all shared the same disappointment at being grounded on what felt like a 1970s soap opera set. Lunch broke the feeling of period theatre and in combination with the hi-tech racing bikes now leaned against the dining room walls like a perimeter of modernity, left all feeling less like time travellers and more like the passing breeze of speed and colour now pit stopped to re-arm.
Feeling like I’d left before I had begun or rather nothing had begun in the end while rain stopped play, I left the team planning and playing ahead of competition and ventured out to the shipping lane of roundabouts between job’s end and the journey home’s take off.
Pointed south above the clouds where all was clear blue if one didn’t look down another familiar pattern unfolded about half way down France. The ground became visible unveiling the shadowed patchwork of endless wind farms like the French version of the English roundabout. I hadn’t seen a shadow for a couple of days and my next stop was Girona, down the road in northern Spain tomorrow in search of more as the backdrop envisaging started once again.