We had the opportunity to sit down with professional cycling photographer, Michael Robertson, to learn about his newest project, Rve, the ultimate in grand tour experiences for cyclists. Reve, French for dream, is in my opinion the holiday gift I dream about getting someday. And Robertson and his team are hoping that other cyclists will feel the same way.
How did the Reve concept come together and how did you get involved?
If I think of Rve as the marriage of cycling and documentary photo coverage the two themes came together with the 2010 Tour for Kika. Wilfred de Kruijf, Rve’s Director, had already organized the 2008 Tour for Jan Janssen. That Tour celebrated Jan’s 1968 Tour Victory. Two years later, a group of Dutch cyclists sought Wilfred’s support to complete their own Tour de France.
My involvement with that Tour, the 2010 Tour for Kika, was entirely serendipitous. I shot the 2010 Copperopolis Road Race here in Northern California and it so happened one of the Kika riders was over here racing and training while completing his medical studies. When he inquired about a one of my photos for the Kika team website, I discovered what they were up to and wondered if they had a photographer. I was immediately struck by the enormity of the challenge and the unique, one-day-ahead of the race timing. It was tailor made for the kind of work I think I do best.
Once in France, all of the pieces for what would become Rve just came together. Wilfred and I hit it off. Each of us brings complementary skills to the table and a vision for Rve that is unique. As we stood together in Paris, both of us felt we couldn’t pass up the chance to share this with other riders.
What makes your trips different from other group trips/tours that riders might be evaluating?
There are three things special about the way our grand tours are designed. 1. The Team concept: look and ride like a team. 2. Timing: Ride one day ahead of the race to maximize the race atmosphere and excitement. 3. Photography: Capture the whole experience, the highs and the lows in a compelling photographic record of the trip.
Other than the Rapha Continental, which is not a Tour that any cyclist can join, there’s nothing out there that incorporates this level of photography into the experience. In 2010 the super fit Kika lads actually made the Tour look easy. It won’t be like this for other groups. Riders will push themselves to the edge and beyond to get to Paris. While they’re doing that I’ll capture the images that they’ll have for the rest of their lives, reminding them that they can do anything they commit to totally.
What level riders go on your trips? How fit do you need to be?
We’ve used the adjective “accomplished” to describe the cyclists we think should attempt this. There’s a section on our web site called Hard Choices that asks some of the hard questions and sets expectations for how long we have to ride each stage. If you can ride a century but are too sore to get on the bike the next day, this isn’t for you. While it may turn out that someone has a bad day and needs to be swept up by support (say they’re 90-minutes behind the group) we’re assuming our riders can ride every kilometer of every stage. In both tours Wilfred organized all riders completed all stages.
Beyond normal and expected muscle fatigue, you need to be able ride relatively pain free. The Kika boys were 25-36 years old but the average age for the Tour for Jan Janssen competitor was over 50. Age and gender are not factors. We’d actually like to see a brace or two of women take this on.
Sounds like a pretty plush trip….how do you convince a spouse that this is a must do for 2011?
I had some fun on the site explaining that convincing a spouse (if they’re not riding with you) is at least as big a hurdle as the mileage. My suggestion, invite her or him to meet you in Paris and stay for an additional five days. This is what I did with my partner, she met us on the Champs Elysees, and it definitely helped smooth the relationship ripples caused by a long absence.
How does the photography come in to play? What can a rider expect to be documents for them after for the trip?
While I can’t predict how many great pictures an individual rider will generate, it’s a certainty with all those kilometers that I’ll have good stuff of everyone. Without preening for the cameras every rider can ensure the camera finds them by riding with energy and being receptive to being photographed. Since photography is an integral part of our experience, no one will be surprised by the camera or me. Ideally they forget I’m there and I capture whatever happens naturally. On this length of ride, as they battle fatigue it’s almost guaranteed they’ll be oblivious of me by the halfway point.
The two volume (2 x 100-pages) hardcover books will tell the team story. Riders can request prints of individual images for our supplier cost + shipping and/or receive their 10 favorite images in hi-res digital format for additional large format prints through another service of their choice. Between those two things I think we’ll give our riders incredible memories to look back on, and certainly tangible proof of their journey that no one else is doing.
For more information, check out: www.reve.cc