Miami-based photographer Alexander Aguiar traveled to France for the 2022 edition of the Tour de France. He shares with us some of his favorite images, as well as some travel tips, and photography dos and don’ts. Pro tip: Go with your mom (if your mom speaks French).
Bicycling: Was this your first time spectating the Tour de France?
Alexander Aguiar: In 2019, My mom and I went to the Tour de France. We had a ton of fun, so there was an itch to go back (I have an itch for a third time). It doesn’t hurt that my mom is French. It was helpful to lean on her for translations since I don’t speak the language very well. I’ve been to France other times with my mom; it’s also nice to connect with my family’s heritage.
Bicycling: Have you photographed other bike races or just the Tour?
Aguiar: The 2019 Tour was my first time photographing any type of cycling. I shot it on film, and I slightly regret not shooting it on a digital camera… which motivated me to go back for a second time. I don’t shoot the races too literally. I enjoy cycling and find the Tour to be incredible, but I don’t know all the riders competing, I don’t know all the teams, and I don’t know all the stats or standings for each stage. Instead, I focus on embracing the event with an “outsider’s” point of view (although I love my CAAD13, I don’t consider myself a cycling purist).
Bicycling: When did you book your trip? Where’d you stay?
Aguiar: We decided to go after the Tour’s route was released in October 2021. Once we decided on the days/locations, we booked through AirBNB and sites like Hotels.com. However, it wasn’t necessary to book hotels as early as we did. We had issues with cancellations and incorrect AirBNB listings. We were able to find same-night rooms.
Book your car and flights early. But for hotels, I suggest pre-booking the first 2-3 nights of the trip and leave the rest up in the air. The original bookings I made weren’t as convenient as they could have been and added extra driving time onto already long days. Things will work out as long as you have a phone that can search the internet and make phone calls.
Bicycling: So you got around by car, not by bike?
Aguiar: We rented a car at Charles De Gaulle airport when we arrived, and I would recommend doing the same. But it makes more sense to finish the trip by taking a train back to Paris and leaving the car at the closest rental facility. We saved about 5 hours of driving back to Paris by doing that, which feels like a big deal when you’ve been driving nonstop for 10 days.
Occasionally you can park your car directly on the road that the cyclists use for the race. If road closures are an issue, pencil in a few miles of walking. There were multiple days where we logged 8-9 miles of walking, but I think we walked more than the average fan. Tour buses seem great if you want to have the logistical work taken out of the equation. I can see this being really valuable to bigger families with children.
Bicycling: What else would you do or not do, again?
Aguiar: I’d like to go with my own bike or rent a bike; that would be a game-changer. Many fans bring their own bikes and ride the stages, which I had a greater appreciation for this year. Aside from the cool factor of sharing routes with the top cyclists in the world, having a bike also makes it a lot easier to get from your car to a viewing area.
Photography Lessons Aguiar Learned
Get friendly with the locals. They’re helpful with directions, viewing locations, and parking in towns. Offer them a portrait in exchange.
Bring a bike or rent one in France. A lot of fans ride the routes before each stage officially starts, and they help with getting to locations when roads are closed to cars or when parking is far.
Stack up on baguettes, cheese, and meats for easy meals on the go. They’re cheap, and tasty.
Arrive early to locations. That way you can meet other fans, wander around towns, take in the scenery, and get to claim your spot before things get crowded.
Don’t expect everything to go smoothly. Roads will be closed unexpectedly, GPS and addresses may be incorrect. You just have to go with the flow.
Don’t skimp on international cell service. You’ll need it for Google Maps, unless you are well versed in using actual maps.
Don’t forget insurance for your car rental! My first TdF experience resulted in a dinged rental despite being careful with the car. Roads that are usually quiet are busy.
Don’t forget to take in some views and take time to site see away from the race.
Don’t arrive without a language translator. You can use Google, a friend (or mom) who knows French, or brush up on your own French before heading out
→ More Scenes from the July 2022 Tour de France
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