Before the start of Stage 2 in Fayetteville, I met up with Scott Ogle, Greg Peterson, Billy Diaz, and David Taylor, two motorcycle-based TV camera crews. I wanted to find out how they captured the pictures of the Dodge Tour de Georgia that are seen on television and on the big screen at the finish line.
Ogle and Peterson are freelance cameramen. Diaz and Taylor are the motorcycle drivers. Ogle said that it made sense for each of them to be freelancers, since there is no single production company or television network with rights to all the cycling races in the United States. Freelancing also gives them the flexibility to work other sports and work in other countries.
The crews ride BMW 750cc motorcycles chock full of microwave equipment. I had never had the opportunity to see this gear up close, but I got a number of good photos that you can see in the Tour de Georgia photo gallery.
The process used to transmit the TV signals from the motorcycles to the stage finish is similar to process used in the Tour de France which was documented last summer on Operation Gadget. Basically, the motorcycles have microwave transmission antennas mounted on a mast that extends above the rear wheel. The microwave signal travels from the motorcycle to a helicopter or a fixed-wing aircraft which relays the signal to the production truck located near the finish line. From there, any necessary satellite feeds can be uplinked and closed-circuit feeds can be sent to the finish line for use by announcers or for display on big screens.
Each member of the two camera crews has worked a many professional cycling events in the past. I asked Scott Ogle what the worst conditions he's ever experienced in a race were? He said "Snow." (It subsequently snowed lightly during Stage 5 of the Tour de Georgia at the summit of Brasstown Bald.) He also said that in one edition of the Tour de Trump race (1990 or 1991), it rained for six days straight.
After seeing Scott Ogle's blood type printed on the back of his helmet, I thought to ask how dangerous they felt their work was? Greg Peterson said during Stage 13 of the 2004 Tour de France, his motorcycle was hit by a Team Gerolsteiner support vehicle and forced off the road. He and his driver stayed upright, but made an abrupt stop. They regrouped and caught the peloton right as Tyler Hamilton abandoned the race. This was a dangerous situation, but turned out well for his team because they shot the footage of Hamilton climbing into the Phonak Hearing Systems support vehicle that was shown on the Outdoor Life Network.
It's pretty clear when you watch these guys work that shooting five to seven hours of television while riding a motorcycle takes a lot of strength and endurance. An example of their physical effort is this photo where one of the cameramen is standing up on his motorcycle to get his shot during the Stage 1 rollout in Augusta. I asked Scott Ogle what he did in order to stay in shape? He said that he runs and rides his bike regularly. Most important, however, is his stretching regimen. He stretches daily, and if he's filming a bike race he performs his stretches both before and after the race.