James Robertson: It’s A Race
Photographer James Robertson has been following The Transcontinental Race since 2015 and has just released a photo book documenting his experiences over the years. Get a taste of some of James’s iconic photography below as well an extract from the book itself.
Following an enforced two-year hiatus, the Transcontinental Race returns in 2022 with a route stretching from Geraardsbergen, the race’s spiritual start, to Burgas, Bulgaria in the Black Sea. Riders must design their own route, linking the mandatory control points to cover 4,000km without any outside assistance.
The Transcontinental Race has plenty of traditions that riders and dotwatchers alike anticipate each year, perhaps none more so than the photography of James Robertson, capturing the dramatic landscapes and portraits from one of cycling’s most enigmatic events. James has followed the race for five consecutive years capturing some of ultra cycling’s most iconic moments and images – often in bathrooms.
Over the years, James’ photos have provided a glimpse into life on the road during one of cycling’s toughest events, inspiring riders, dotwatchers, race organisers and photographers alike. Ahead of his sixth race, James has released a photo book, “It’s A Race”, documenting his time with the TCR and providing a rich insight into some of the stories behind those images.
To celebrate the launch of his book, we asked James to share some insight into the complexities of following a race like the TCR as a photographer.
“The concept of the TCR is a simple one. Likewise, the media team’s job, to follow riders in a car and report on the race. Both of them straightforward and yet neither turns out that way in practice. The instant the race begins, riders are cast adrift into an unknown world, and a tapestry of people, places and landscapes, of change meetings and lonely roads, begins to be woven.
At times, it feels as though the race we’re trying to document is both everywhere and nowhere. It is at once enormous and spectacular, spread across the whole of Europe, and at the same time conspicuous and unassuming, all the time disappearing into the cracks of daily life carrying on unaffected all around it.
“Moments and feelings get folded into time, but few are captured. As a photographer, I must admit that there so much of the race that is left undocumented. For every instance that I encounter the complex web of people and landscapes which comprise the TCR, there are infinite encounters in which I am not present. This should be celebrated, though, as the un-coverable scale of the TCR is one of its eternal strengths”