Photography: James Robertson
Transatlantic way – a race across Ireland
What image could possibly show the reality of ultra-endurance, self-supported racing?
How much can a single image of a rider convey, when in many ways the riding is the easy part of the race? It is everything else that is difficult — finding food, or shelter, fixing mechanicals. But such pivotal moments are brief and unpredictable. It is straightforward to find an interesting section of road or a particularly hard climb, but much more difficult to be there when a rider is fixing his sixth puncture, has run out of tubes, has only wet patches left, and can’t find the cause of all the punctures. It takes luck.
The TransAtlantic Way was born out of, its race director, Adrian’s desire to create a training ride for his Transcontinental Race attempt. He failed. Rather than create an easier and more approachable route than the Transcontinental’s, he made one that is every bit as difficult and yet incredibly unique. The west coast of Ireland is beautiful for its rugged brutality, its unrelenting wind, continual undulation, and ever-reliable weather.
As a photographer, you chase images, hoping to line up a landscape with a rider and a thing happening. So much of a race is just pedalling and an internal monologue, and the key is to find an image that provides a glimpse into the riders’ experiences. Single images can involve a huge investment of time: early starts to find resting riders and then hours waiting, at a distance, for them to wake or for another rider to pass, watching the light change and hoping everything aligns.
Images can only hint at what these types of races involve. It is only the riders who really understand everything they go through, all the highs and all the lows, and, while I have my own days that go well, others are spent lost on small Irish roads, and it is only much later, when I get to sit down and see the images on paper, that I can truly see how I have depicted the race.
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If you liked this story consider purchasing Soigneur Cycling Journal 18 where it was first printed.