We expected nothing from this first stage. It’s flat, and riders are careful to keep their nerves under control and to get the Tour going. Then with 8km to go, everyone shifted into high gear, and it hit the fan. Literally. A spectator standing right beside the road with his hand on his hip was clipped causing a massive pileup that completely blocked a 4-lane highway. There were 121 riders caught up in the crash who lost difficult-to-recoup time while the other 77 sped toward the finish line.
This was the team time trial where each team of nine riders raced as a group. The focus was pure speed. The stage time for the team was set when the fifth man crossed the finish line.
The typography for this piece was taken from what we started referring to as “Megan’s wiggle.” There is a graceful slithering to the team when the camera is looking right up their backs while they’re riding in a tight formation. And Megan was right in the middle of that colorful typographic vibration in ink.
July 4th. American Tyler Farrar of the American Team Garmin-Cervélo crossed the finish line first to take the stage win. The design shows a flagpole element from our newly made wood type borders and the colors seemed inevitable. Crossing the finish line, Farrar held up his hands to form a “W” in tribute to teammate Wouter Weylandt (who was killed in the Giro d’Italia in May of this year), which became a pair of fists printed in silver.
Early in the stage, there was a nice incident when Anthony Charteau of Team Europcar tore out of the peloton, got a lead of about 60 seconds, and then pulled over to the side of the road to greet and kiss his family. It was a wonderfully human touch to the race. Thus the red heart along the right side to celebrate the hugs and kisses. Familiar to Tour watchers is a Poseidon-looking guy with a red cape and white beard carrying a trident at many of the stages. He was there today, so we put that “spearhead” (actually a bracket from some of our newly made wood type) in there for him. We are considering putting it in every poster when we see him running along side the racers.
Honestly, this was the kind of day we dreaded. Nothing happened except that it rained for a good deal of the stage. Thus the soft aqua rain shower scudding across the top. Some riders had flat tires, which strangely happens on rainy days as grit tends to stick and work its way through the rubber. A relatively uneventful day built to a squeaker photo finish (a couple of inches) between Cadel Evans of BMC and Alberto Contador of Saxo Bank, two people we were quite interested in watching.
After some false starts trying to represent the chaos from an unbelievable 10 crashes that seemed to happen out of nowhere, Jill began setting some “crash” words from our metal type collection. Ray started playing with them and came up with the zigzag layout. The zigzag offered a way to show the winding roads and the constant possibility of bumping into the irresistible pull of a strange gravitational force that was in effect that day. Mark Cavendish of HTC-Highroad won the sprint finish.
This long and rainy stage had Tray wanting to compose a rooster tail of spray coming off the wet bike wheels. Add a large upsidedown Q as a tire and a lot of handset circular water droplets for spray and “Voila!” It is pretty hard to imagine what that must be like in the middle of the peloton if you haven’t been there in fowl weather.
There we sat waiting for the sprint scheduled for 25 km from the end of a long stage, waiting for something, anything to happen. About 15 km from the intermediate sprint Ben, a type designer from House Industries, looked over at Ray and said, “Waiting for the sprint.” We all knew immediately that was the subject of the poster. Simple as that. A casual, well-placed statement. Then came the crash. The large broken “S” says it all, and our 1956 Intertype C4 says the rest. There was another hug & kiss incident, and Mark Cavendish of HTC-Highroad won his second sprint stage (his 17th of his 6 Tours).
Chickens. Alberto Contador should have said “Adios” to being behind by 1:42. Cadel Evans should have said, “G’day, mates. I’m outta here.” Andy Schleck needed to erase the past. Did any of them do anything about that? Nope. “Cluck cluck” sums it up. Rui Alberto Costa of Movistar Team took it.
A television support car veered to avoid a tree that was growing absurdly close to the road. The car ran solidly into Juan Antonio Flecha of Sky Procycling, knocking him abruptly to the road. He fell into Johnny Hoogerland of Vacansoleil-DCM, who did a spectacular head-over-heels somersault with his bike, landing directly onto a barbed wire fence. His bike jumped the fence: 33 stitches. Ouch. And the Tour awarded both men red numbers for completing the race that day as the most aggressive riders (a Tour first). Thomas Voeckler of Europcar who avoided the incident went on to win the stage and get the Yellow Jersey for his first of 10 days wearing it.
When we started considering today’s poster, none of us could shake the memory of the two major crashes the previous day. We wrapped our Clarendon type with gauze, which worked surprisingly well with the images of Hoogerland landing on that barbed wire fence, and the other riders who were injured in the big downhill crash. The tricky part was maintaining the right amount of ink that was hand-rolled onto the type in both colors at the same time for each print. Arranging the bike chain roughly in the shape of France also seemed to capture the roughness the riders were going through so far. Pain gave us a nice way to mark Paris.
The day started with a lecture to the drivers of the 140 cars assisting the Tour cyclists: no carnival rides allowed. The next strange, but the possibly minor moment on TV, was the sight of Jérôme Coppel of Saur-Sojasun, who had been caught up in a small crash, riding up next to his support car. Now every time someone gets near a car, things seem edgier, but he wasn’t wearing his left shoe. A mechanic leans out of the car and puts his shoe on like he was working in some shoe store in the mall. This was certainly different, and we laughed and joked about “What if that’s the big moment?” Then a few minutes later it strangely happened again, also to the left shoe, but this time to Thor Hushovd of Team Garmin-Cervélo, the 6-stage wearer of the Yellow Jersey in this year’s Tour de France. André Greipel of Omega Pharma-Lotto won his first TdF stage ever, edging out Mark Cavendish of HTC-Highroad at the line.
It is impossible to watch the Tour de France and not wonder, “Why can’t the breakaway just ride faster?” Almost every time the peloton allows a group of 5 or 6 riders to get out in front, they get reeled back in as if they had rubber bands attached to them, usually snapping them up with about 10-20km to go. The rubber band analogy stuck with us, so this image was hand-rolled with actually stretched rubber bands to test our letterpress skills against a “breakaway.” Mark Cavendish of HTC-Highroad was the beneficiary of the rubber band rule, picking up his 18th TdF stage win.
Col du Tourmalet has this great t-o-u-r in the middle of it. It’s also high. We thought blind debossing would work nicely (though somewhat invisible on our scanner) with some hand-rolling on the bottom of the type to help put the peak into the clouds. It was also Bastille Day, and we were rooting for any Frenchman who took a shot at winning the stage. We decided to add a few Bastille fireworks and French colors to the early crashes to highlight the date that is printed with the signature block.
A large breakaway of 10 cyclists finally got free of the peloton. It’s an interesting group as 4 of them have won stages in previous Tours, including Thor Hushovd of Team Garmin-Cervélo who has won 8. The peloton simply hangs together because stages with long downhill endings are really hard to win and everyone is saving their energy for another killer stage tomorrow. At the base of Col d’Aubisque, Hushovd goes it alone. At the top, 6 riders are still away from the peloton with the leaders being Jérémy Roy of FDJ, David Moncoutie of Cofidis, and Thor Hushovd.
From the top on, they are flying. Roy and Moncoutie are French, so they are hard to root against. While he’s not a mountain climber, Hushovd is a world champion, and he is hard to root against. Roy held out until 2km but was eventually caught by Hushovd in an amazing bike race that pitted incredible riders against each other. Roy dipped his head and tapped his heart as he crossed the finish line (hence our heart in his name) in a gesture that said either “I gave it all that I had” or “I’m heartbroken.” Our hearts went out to him as he crossed the finish line.
Handrolling on our wood type arrows with a touch of yellow made us feel connected a bit to the cyclists. We were starting to feel like friends.
This was the hard stage in the Pyrenées and an interesting day to play with typography. The profile was up and down. A category 1 mountain, then 2, 1, 2, 3, and ending with an out-of-category (HC) mountaintop finish. We represented the profile for the stage using Vs from our wood type collection while 4 of the favorites (Andy & Frank Schleck, Evans and Contador) played cat and mouse with each other. Jelle Vanendert of Omega Pharma-Lotto won his first stage as a professional on a serious mountain stage. Didi, our Poseidon guy, was back.
Then it sunk in. You see some records that you can never imagine being broken. Lance Armstrong was an amazing cyclist who won lots of individual stages (22) and the Tour seven consecutive times. And before Armstrong, Eddie Merckx won 34 stages. You think no one is going to get close.
But, today we might be seeing someone who can. We’ve printed a number of posters with Mark Cavendish of HTC-Highroad as the stage winner so far. Today brings him to 19 stage wins in only six Tours. There are a bunch of people who could beat him on the right day, but those days just don’t seem to be coming up very often. This makes 4 he has won this year, and he might not be done.
Ray said, “How about ‘endurance letterpress’?” Everyone said “OK.” Jill was playing around with the word endurance, trying to break it different ways, and came up with this arrangement. UNRACE is the fact that they aren’t racing today. RACE is the Tour. END is that we want this REST day to UNREST so we can get to the Alps. How nice does that work out? We didn’t want to be completely lazy so we decided to take the word “letterpress” and use our newly made Reubens wood type on a diagonal. Just as we were getting ready to print, we came up with “letterpause.” After all, we were pretending to rest.
The breakaway survived, and we loved that. In the end, it was Thor Hushovd of Team Garmin-Cervélo who took the day again. Thor is known more as a sprinter, which makes his win so much more surprising, and he has now won his second mountain stage bringing his total for stage wins in the Tour to 10. The announcers are always mentioning that he is from Norway. Watching from over here in Delaware, it seems like there must be some serious road racers from Norway. And, Edvald Boasson Hagen of Sky Procycling came in second. The interesting thing is that he is also from Norway.
So, Norway. 1-2. Seriously cool.
We had a crowd in the studio. Chris and Jen are designers at Two Paper Dolls in Philadelphia. We’ve long admired their work, so it was fun to have different design air swirling around. Also joining us was Virginia who teaches graphic design at Baylor University. Virginia plans to be with us for the for the final 6 stages, which should teach her a few things about the Tour de France and endurance letterpress.
We turned things loose for the group. As the new contributors weren’t experienced Tour de France followers, we just said, “Print what you see and feel.” One of the visual elements of the stage was the climb and descent from Pramartino which was an incredibly narrow, tree-lined road. So there were lots of jostling and racing words, hairpin curves, push, pain, etc., all within a narrowly confined layout like the race route that day. Edvald Boasson Hagen of Sky Procycling and Norway won the stage. Seriously.
Three out-of-category (HC-hors catégorie) climbs, time running out, and posters to do. We’ve been rooting for Andy Schleck of Leopard-Trek since two years ago. As the peloton is climbing the second mountain about 60km from the finish, we were more than a little excited to see Andy leap out from the peloton. Maybe just to scare them at first. But he didn’t stop.
Holy cow, he is on a 60km breakaway, and he’s one of the favorites to win this year (came in 2nd the last two years). Soon his lead was up to 4 minutes. Not too long after that, he passed almost all of the remnants of a 19-man breakaway, except for one. At about 8km he passed that one. Way to go and Didi was there rooting for him also!
We love letterpress because of the ability to make changes during the process which was so useful in our work on this poster. Some wonderful elements to the poster are Rolland beginning in “Roll” (a nice bike term for the winner) and ending in “and” which allowed us to print the word in red and blue to celebrate the French win. Adding a yellow “y” to the end gave us the chance to highlight both big winners today as our man, Andy Schleck, took the Yellow Jersey for the first time. We also wanted to tip our ink rollers to Thomas Voeckler’s 10 fairy tale days in yellow.
Today was the dreaded individual time trial. Some riders are good at this, and some aren’t. Our guy Andy wasn’t. Tony Martin of HTC-Highroad won the stage while Cadel Evans of BMC, starting 3rd to last with 0:57 to make up, was absolutely on fire and easily gained that time plus another two minutes to take the Yellow Jersey and be declared the overall winner of the Tour de France. There is one more stage, but it comes with the general agreement to not challenge the Yellow Jersey on the final day. A nice bit of gentlemanly Tour etiquette. Honestly, there’s not a nicer or more deserving guy to win it.
We figured the best way to finish the Tour de Lead Graffiti poster series was to pay homage to those who had excited us the most during the past 3 weeks. Yellow of course and a nice blue. And then in one final gesture of letterpress endurance, “How about one more run using an arrow?” Thanks for that.