Looking back on the posters we graded them like this :
By winning the first stage, Rohan Dennis becomes the leader of the General Classification of the Tour de France, which means he gets the coveted Yellow Jersey. He’ll be wearing that on Stage 2. He is also the leader in total points for the Green Jersey (sprinters). Being 25 years old, he also gets the White Jersey as the leading rider under age 26. The color bars along the poster’s left side are symbolic of the rather amazing day this young cyclist had. We added a black/red bar honoring the colors of the BMC Racing Team jersey he was riding for today.
This year the Tour reinstated a rule offering time bonuses to the first 3 places at the end of certain stages. Finishing 1st is awarded 10 seconds, 2nd gets 6, and 3rd gets 4. The top 3 places (note 2nd & 3rd are just 1 second apart) after Stage 1 stood at:
Here’s today’s math problem: if Dennis (wearing the Yellow Jersey) doesn’t come in 1st or 2nd AND Cancellara can finish as high as 3rd on the stage, then Cancellara would be in Yellow. At the final sprint, Mark Cavendish sees he cannot win and coasts to a 4th place finish, giving Cancellara the time bonus and letting him jump over Martin for the Yellow Jersey. Since Cavendish and Martin are on the same team and teams love having glory in any form, Cavendish didn’t “do the math.”
A 45 mph crash had 20 riders sliding on asphalt, resulting in some severe injuries. They showed it a dozen times during the race, and it was jaw-dropping every time.
Minutes later a strange thing occurred. Officials stopped the riders in the middle of a small town, allowing those to catch up who could continue from the crash. It turns out all of the ambulances were used up. A pause was needed to ensure aid would be ready.
At the steep mountaintop finish, the winner was Joaquim Rodríguez. Close behind in second was Chris Froome, the Lead Graffiti personal favorite to win the Tour.
Though he finished yesterday’s stage, Cancellara abandoned (2 cracked vertebrae), earning our “Moments of Humanity” heart. This was the cobblestones stage, so we highlighted the bounciness with an experimental effort printing with some colors simultaneously.
Normally in pre-race interviews, the cyclists are pretty close-mouthed about strategies. Martin wasn’t. “Yellow Jersey.” Period. No one had the legs, and Tony Martin won the stage, moving into the Yellow Jersey. Finally. Whew!
And we saw Didi.
In an after-stage interview, commentator Bob Roll asked Jacques Van Rensburg what it was like being in the peloton in his first Tour. He responded, “It’s like a washing machine.” That description sloshed around in our heads and then it was clear that it is exactly a washing machine. You get to the front going up the sides. Once there, the sides roll in on the riders pushing them back down the middle. Greipel won cleanly.
After rooting for Tony Martin since day 1, he’s finally in Yellow, but he is clipped unavoidably by the cyclist in front of him. Martin crashes hard onto his shoulder, breaking his collarbone and is escorted by teammates to the finish. In a post-race interview Martin says, “In the Tour, luck and bad luck are closely related.”
Well, while everyone was waiting for someone to start the mad dash to the finish line, Zdenek Stybar (there are lots of unusual names in the Tour’s roster) leaps out of the crowded peloton. He gets a bit of a lead and damn if he doesn’t hold on to it. Stybar and Martin are teammates providing a bit of balance to the situation.
The first African team in the tour is MTN-Qhubeka. Daniel Teklehaimanot got the first points toward the King of the Mountains jersey, so tomorrow he will be wearing his first Polka Dot Jersey, and we love firsts.
Back on Stage 2 we lamented Mark Cavendish not doing the math. He has a chance to win the most Tour stages ever, but still has 7 to go. He crashed out on the first stage of last year’s Tour, so he hasn’t won in over a year. Today he broke the jinx. In an after-stage interview when asked about it, Cavendish let out a tremendous sigh. It was indeed the “sigh heard round the world.” A heart goes to an absent Tony Martin.
S T A G E 8 : Rennes > Mûr de Bretagne | 179 km
We did a spontaneous “Moment of Humanity” callout to the fact that this was our 100th Tour de Lead Graffiti poster.
Headed up the 10% grade to the finish line, the peloton had shrunk to maybe 2 dozen. Chris Froome took off, then out of the crowd came Alexis Vuillermoz and that was that. Dan Martin (no relation to Tony Martin) tried to catch up, only to come in second. Nothing was stopping Vuillermoz. Vincenzo Nibali, last year’s Tour winner, was dropped on the climb, costing him a few seconds and maybe showing some vulnerability. We presented Vuillermoz materializing out of the crowd of riders in their multi-colored jerseys, the French flag colors saluting his first Tour stage win.
Peter Sagan, one of Jill’s favorite favorites, captured enough sprint points to take over the Green Jersey awarded to the Tour’s best sprinter.
Today was the Team Time Trial. Each team rides together, relying on each other’s support: it’s critical that strong riders not leave the others behind. It is a great view when the motorcycle photographer looks right up the backs of the maximum of 9 riders and their undulating back and forth swaying, dependent on the gear each rider is using and their respective heights. BMC squeaked by with 1 second to spare.
We liked the poster we did in 2011 and decided to make it a rule to use a bike chain on the 1st rest day. Since we don’t have 4 hours of TV to watch, we can spend more time on production. Bike chain also appears on some of the 2nd rest days (and Stage 20 this year).
Looking like a giant snail, it’s perfect for a “slow” rest day. Then for the fireworks. After doing the split fountain run on the Stage 4 poster, we wanted to give it another shot, so we used the extra time we gained to ink the press with a bit more precision.
Lots of people ask us, “Why the Tour de France.” It isn’t exactly about physical skill or strategic thinking. It’s more about a cyclist discovering some personal ability that they didn’t seem to know was there. Sometimes circumstances force it into the light. This happens on at least a couple of stages each tour. It seems like a moment that shouldn’t logically have happened. One thing that is clear is that these special days don’t happen if you don’t try.
Today was one of those amazing days. Chris Froome went “deep into the pain cave” and rocketed out a winner.
The stage was going to take the riders over some minor climbs before a Category 1 (Col d’Aspin) and then over an HC (Col du Tourmalet). It’s 80th time on the Tour’s route, Tourmalet was also the highest point in this year’s Tour. And it is a brute. Classic Pyrenees. The day then ended with a painful category 3 climb to the finish.
This was a day that a good breakaway could survive. A group of 7 took an early shot at it. Dan Martin (not to be confused with Tony Martin who crashed out earlier) is a rider with skills and ambition: he was itching to win a stage, having come in 4th and 2nd on two earlier stages. And any day with cows mingling with cyclists is exciting.
The math on this poster was fun. We tried to show the three milestones of Martin’s progress from the peloton to the breakaway to his close 2nd behind Rafal Majka at the finish. Replacing the “A”s with the arrows gave the names more energy while marking Martin’s advances and made more typographic fun for us.
The final climb of 1200m was a mountaintop finish spread over 16.5k. The “Fab 5” contenders stuck together like glue. Nibali zipped out and got about 80m ahead, but was reeled in. Contador took a shot before fading.
The poster came down to a TV image from one of the helicopters. Froome, Quintana, Nibali, Contador and Van Garderen could all reach out and touch each other. They pretty much spent the day orbiting one another while Rodriguez took the win.
Breakaways are exciting, and we were screaming for this one to hang on, but the peloton is a swarm of bees that can zap any time advantage. Just 3km from the finish, the peloton caught the leader with a mere 200m to go. Wonder how many times the breakaway riders replay how they could squeeze an extra 200m out of their legs?
The three breakaway riders who had the lead for an amazing 200km end up coming in 20th, 28th and 29th place in 30 seconds of descending chaos. It’s 96 degrees as Sagan and Greipel duel for the Green Jersey points, and Van Avermaet wins the stage.
Earlier we told you how Stage 10 was an example of what it is that we like about the Tour de France. This is another, even better, example.
Stephen Cummings turned pro in 2005 and won only 9 races over his career, none of them like any in the Tour de France. In comparison, Peter Sagan has 76 (with 3 Tour sprinter’s jerseys), Chris Froome has 28 (including the Tour de France), and Mark Cavendish has 131.
Cummings, who came in 10th on the opening individual time trial (his next highest finish was 67th), is on the MTN-Qhubeka team, the first team from South Africa to compete in the Tour. More importantly, today is Nelson Mandela Day, and that is significant if you’re on a South African team. MTN-Qhubeka was even sporting special orange helmets, instead of their usual yellow ones, to celebrate.
Cummings gets in an early breakaway with 19 others. When they arrive at the finish, Cummings is first across the line. It was the perfect reflection of “suffering without surrendering.” The “Fab 5” continued their mutual orbit.
Done. No moments. No story. So, we are watching the post-race interview, and all of the cyclists were complaining about the heat, the speed set by the peloton and other factors. One commentator said, “It looked easy on paper.” Today’s collaborator is in finance, and a discussion started about any financial imagery that might convey the idea. We think the “paperwork” tells the story nicely. Greipel grabs stage win No. 3.
There was a frightening crash in a downhill hairpin curve that had troubled the earlier breakaway, which had a 20 minute+ gap. When the rest arrive, one rider takes the inside line far too fast and runs into Geraint Thomas. Thomas veers on a direct path toward a utility pole. He appeared to hit the pole head-on at about 30 mph. His reaction after the race was that he “butted heads with that wooden pole thing.” Thomas finished the race having lost a mere 28 seconds. These guys are tough. A heart goes to Sagan for suffering through what is now 5 second-place finishes.
We had wanted to do something with bicycle spokes, so we bought a set. Didn’t work out as well as we hoped, so we discarded the idea. Our collaborators were working on a circular piece using the lyrics to Billy Preston’s 1972 hit song: “Will it go round in circles? Will it fly high like a bird up in the sky?” We’ve been trying to use a circular element in each poster, so the song has been popping into our heads a lot. This poster let us set it free.
It was another one of those out-of-obscurity days for the winner, which we love.
Simon Geschke turned pro cyclist in 2008 and had only 3 wins on his résumé. On stage 16 he came in 4th, which almost got him on the podium (top 3). One really good day is usually followed by a bad day next (regression to the norm). It must be difficult having good legs two days in a row. And this was a serious day in the Alps. Geschke’s tears moved us. We love this about the Tour de France: riders can somehow find a secret savings account of energy even they didn’t know they had.
You seldom see full beards in the Tour. Jill did a nice job of composing the mustache and beard under his name using the arrows we had made to represent riders. The contenders continue buzzing around Froome in Yellow, but can’t take it from him.
French cyclists Romain Bardet & Pierre Rolland came in 1st & 2nd on the stage.
The striking visual of the day was looking at the climb up Col du Glandon. We grabbed an image off the TV, drew it to a size that fit the poster, and taped 1.5 pica strips of masonite to a sheet of MDF. To help build the architecture of the mountain, we hand-rolled 3 greens with a touch of blue for the sky. While the visual was pretty effective, it took us almost to 7 pm (about 5 hours) to make the first print. And then 10 more practice inkings to get the rolling strategy down. We normally don’t try to do drawings with the Tour posters due to the time constraints. Oh, and we saw Didi.
Today’s effort was special—Vive la France! Vive le Letterpress!
With time running out on this year’s tour, there were teams & riders who had been dreaming of miraculous, but unfulfilled outcomes. Our collaborator was a Lead Graffiti patron, aged 14, who has worked with us each of these five years. While talking about the riders reaching these just-fulfilled dreams, he said “Finally”. There was the poster. We spelled “finally” in the respective languages for 3 special winners:
1 Vincenzo Nibali, last year’s winner, finally won a stage,
2 Nairo Quintana, a Tour favorite, finally took a big chunk out of Chris Froome’s time, &
3 Romain Bardet got enough mountain points to wear the King of the Mountains jersey tomorrow up Alpe d’Huez. Whew! Finally!
There are 4 evil details to today’s stage: 1) it has one category 1 and 2 HC (out of category) mountain climbs,; 2) it ends at the top of Alpe d’Huez, THE iconic mountain of the Tour; 3) it is the last and really hard day and it decides the Tour winner; and 4) the riders have to fly to Paris for the final stage tomorrow.
The 21 switchbacks of Alpe d’Huez are always fun to build into the look of the poster. The bike chain in the 1st rest day gave us an idea of how to visually illustrate the ride and also provided us with a place to tell the story in text, switchback by switchback.
Today’s poster is not about the stage, but about the race.
Overall this was a fabulous Tour. We had to watch almost 80 hours to see all of the great moments, but we saw every one of them. There were some challenging stages with efforts that are now making the riders national heroes. Teams got up this morning planning on 2016. We used the poster to record the names of the overall winners and Tour details with a nod to the iconic Rocky Balboa.
During the Tour de Lead Graffiti, we add each of the day’s runs to a composite print. We started doing this as an “amusing thing to do.” Watching the image build, this year’s composite has the best look, we think, of the 5 editions, as well as the broadest ink coverage. There were stages where the positioning of an element was determined so that it would hit in some specific area of the composite. It should be noted that we altered the order of the prints so we could print the images from the second Rest Day as the topmost elements. A satisfying and restful sense of closure, don’t you think?