I wanted to ask for a photographer's vest for the Dodge Tour de Georgia, but I didn't feel that I had the right camera to make it worthwhile. If I had one of those vests, I could have stood inside the barriers just beyond the finish line and gotten shots of riders throwing their bikes at the line to try to be first.
The right camera would be a very good digital single lens reflex camera, like the Canon EOS 20D. This is an 8.2-megapixel camera capable of shooting 5 frames per second for 23 consecutive shots. It has a startup time of 0.2 seconds. The EOS 20D isn't the most expensive digital SLR out there, but it has a good price/performance trade off, and it uses a better grade of some of the same technology that I already use in my Canon Powershot A95.
In order to do this right, I'll need a very large Compact Flash card that can be written to at the fastest possible speed. The Lexar Media 2-Gigabyte 80X Pro Series looks like a good choice. If I wanted to economize, there's a 1-Gigabyte version of the same product.
The lens that we would want to shoot finish line photos at a pro cycling race could easily cost us a lot of money. If you remember the article about the photo that professional sports photographer Harvey Levine took of me riding my mountain bike, he used a 400mm F/2.8 Nikkor lens for that. The cost estimate on it was $6,000 used. Most people rent it.
The closest Canon lens available through Amazon.com and its affiliates is a Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Super Telephoto Lens. It's much cheaper and probably significantly slower. Some people say it's fast enough for sports and that might be true if the action is coming right at you, as in a pro cycling race finish line shot.
If I'm shooting, I want something smaller so I can use it without a tripod or monopod. How about the Canon EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM Telephoto Lens? That's half the cost of the 400mm Canon lens, plus it's significantly smaller, lighter, and faster. I can deal with only having a 200mm telephoto lens if I have a photographer's vest. About the only thing to think about here is the lack of image stabilization.
If I need something to stabilize my shot I'm going to try a Manfrotto 684B Bogen Neotec Monopod, although I'm sure someone will come along and tell me I'm wrong. I've never purchased a monopod before, what do I know?
The whole rig, camera, memory card, lens, and monopod will set us back something like $2450 and we'll also get a Canon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 autofocus lens for the shots a normal person's camera could take. This setup won't turn me into Graham Watson overnight, but I'll be a thousand times more likely to get the shot that they use on the cover of VeloNews or Cycle Sport than I am with my PowerShot A95.