After the fantastic response to his selection in the 2019 edition, for the 2020 Russ Ellis (@Cyclingimages) knew that this year’s curated photography section would prove to be crucial in The Road Book’s brief to pay respect and to reflect to “A Year Apart” and document a season and world turned upside world by the COVID-19 pandemic. To own your piece of history and view the entire selection of 31 images, pre-order your first edition copy today.
I started my year as always at the Tour Down Under when the biggest talking point other than the actual cycling was the devastating bushfires that had been raging around the country. The Adelaide hills were scorched and black but the fires were all but over so people were hopeful that the year would only get better. Those hopes were dashed only weeks later as I lay on my hotel bed at the UAE Tour reading an email from RCS informing us that the following days stage was cancelled as some riders had tested positive for Covid-19, this was the start of the craziest year of my short cycling photography career.
The Tour down Under raced through the Adelaide hills still carrying the scars of the wild fire
I travelled back to the U.K from the UAE expecting for everything to get back to normal relatively quickly with the plan to travel to Italy for Strade Bianche a few weeks later. As we know now, that never happened, Strade was cancelled first and then the whole house of cards fell down as the world went into lockdown.
I spent the next months when I should have been in Belgium and France for the classics and then Italy for the Giro over in Australia with my partner. I watched as the UCI released a revised calendar for the year and like everyone was very sceptical about the actual likelihood of anymore racing in 2020.
July arrived and it looked like against all the odds that racing would indeed resume with the first race that had been cancelled, Strade Bianche. I flew back from Australia to Europe knowing that if all the races went ahead as planned I would be on the road and away from my partner for around 4 months at the very least and possibly much longer as Australia has its international borders closed to non citizens so there were very limited flights back. So this was a big decision to make seeing as most people still doubted that all the racing would go ahead. I arrived in the UK and collected all of my camera equipment and then drove down to Italy with a colleague, we had decided to drive around the races and countries rather than fly to help us keep as self contained and socially distanced as possible.
Portuguese star João Almeida, just 22 years of age, held the leader’s jersey of the Giro d’Italia for 14 days, supported by his Deceuninck QuickStep team mates
As much as I was looking forward to working again and taking images at bike races I was also very concerned about how it would all play out, would everyone stay healthy, would the races all go ahead as planned, when would I actually get home?
As it turned out it actually became one of the easiest years for me in terms of being able to do my job, with the limited spectator numbers in and around the race it actually meant that I had much easier access and less problems moving around the race itself, especially on the big mountain stages, usually we would get stuck in traffic and held up by thousands of people on bikes riding up and down the climbs, but this year it was a breeze. That being said, I feel that a lot of what makes bike races great was lost on certain stages due to this lack of fans on some of the climbs, so it was bitter sweet. Generally though it all felt very familiar and bike racing is just bike racing at the end of the day and that’s why we love it.
So, here I am writing this after travelling home, I’ve just spent a few days reviewing my images trying to select the ones that are to be used in the 2020 edition of this wonderful almanack. “A Year Apart” perfectly encapsulated the season and with it the theme of this year’s edition. I always start with an initial selection of far more than I need before then reducing it down to the required number, I try to not just select technically good images but the ones that tell a story of the season. I think I have managed to do that and I hope you enjoy looking at them.