“A sense of excitement and colour and an almost circus-like nature,” photographer Emily Maye replies when asked what makes cycling such an attractive spectacle.
A freelancer, working in documentary sport, Maye has spent this season embedded with the Trek Factory Racing team and has just launched an exhibition, We Were Fought By Men Very Fast, at Beach, London, to coincide with the Tour de France Grand Depart.
And we will be talking to her about all things cycling and photography at the Yorkshire Bicycle Show, at our ‘an evening with RCUK’ on Friday (July 4) – our Q&A session with some industry insiders.
Maye’s exhibition, which focuses on the Spring Classics, runs from July 1 to July 31, but how do you capture the intense drama and spectacle of cycling?
“I’m primarily concerned with capturing the tone of a race and the lifestyle, the feeling of what it is like to be there.” Emily explains.
“I grew up loving cinema and I think that influences largely what I want people to get from the photographs.
“I try to take time to see things that you wouldn’t see on the TV coverage of the race. I am fortunate to be allowed to work behind the scenes and get more of that angle.
“My interest in cycling photography came largely from looking at old cycling photographs. There was a period of time where I was researching the origins of the Tour de France and the Classics for a writing project and I spent a lot of time looking through amazing imagery.
“At that time I became very curious about photographing cycling. I wanted to see if I could capture the timelessness that those photographs held even though the technology and spectacle has changed so much.”
Emily’s exhibition focuses on the event, rather than the race – choosing the Classics as an alternative view of cycling than the Tour de France.
Hugely popular among cyclists and cycling fans, the races attract much less air time among those outside of the sport than the Tour does.
Alongside the Classics, however, Emily – who has also worked for the likes of Rapha and Team Sky – has been enjoying the company of Trek Factory Racing.
And she admits it has been a real eye-opener to see what goes on behind-the-scenes at a professional cycling team.
“It has been a different experience travelling with a team this season as opposed to outside of it,” she explained. “It is so good sometimes to take a step out so that you aren’t too close to it but for the most part I have found it quite rewarding.
“I have got to document a wide range of events and emotions and, in the end, I think that leads to a more complete picture of what it’s like to race professionally than just covering the races.
“I am struck by how long the days are. People talk about how long or how hard the stage was but not about how long the transfers were or what time dinner was or the hour spent trying to get the internet to work so that you could Skype with your girlfriend – especially during a Grand Tour.
“It’s impressive to me sometimes that guys can even stay awake on the bike. I have also gotten to see the sense of family that exists on a team when you spend that much time together traveling around.
“There are more staff than riders and that community can go unnoticed from the outside. A win lifts everybody up and a crash really effects everyone that cares about that rider.”
The Tour de France Grand Depart will now allow Emily another new experience, having only previously started at Tours in the later stages.
And she admits she can not wait for the race to get started.
“I think the UK has really come to embrace cycling and I hope that continues and that their interest in it grows,” she concluded.
“I was at the Giro this year and the Italians put on a good show every day, so I am looking forward to seeing the different atmosphere here at the Tour de France.”
We Were Fought by Men Very Fast is exhibited at Beach London from Tuesday July 1 to Thursday July 31.
Emily will be a guest of RCUK at the Yorkshire Bicycle Show. For more information about the show, which takes place from Friday July 4 to Sunday July 6 at Leeds Town Hall, and to buy tickets visit http://yorkshirebicycleshow.co.uk/