Ashley and Jered Gruber are widely regarded as some of the best photographers in pro cycling. As you’ll know if you’ve followed Escape Collective’s coverage of the 2023 Tour de France, the wife-and-husband duo are currently at the race, working their magic from each and every stage.
When the pair aren’t busy taking incredible shots of the race itself, they love turning their lenses away from the riders, to capture those watching the race. Here at Escape we like to call them ‘roadside randoms’ – the multitude of fascinating people found sitting or standing by the roadside, waiting for the race to pass them by.
The gallery you can see below brings together a whole heap of the Grubers’ ‘roadside randoms’ photos from the first week of the 2023 Tour de France – stages 1 to 9 – with a handful of similar photos from fellow snapper Kristof Ramon thrown in for good measure.
As an added bonus, Escape’s Iain Treloar caught up with Ashley and Jered in France to learn more about the couple’s love of roadside photography. As Iain discovered, most of these photos are actually shot while the Grubers are on the move – Ashley driving, Jered shooting out the window.
Jered Gruber: It’s definitely a team effort. You kind of have to, weirdly, have an idea who you’re trying to shoot, like 100 metres before you get to them. So it’s kind of trying to assess the scene as you’re coming up to it, because you’re still going like 60-70 km/h.
Iain Treloar: So you’re just driving along and then slam the brakes on?
Jered: No, no, no. The speed stays the same. 99.999% of these are in motion.
Ashley Gruber: As soon as they know you’re taking a picture. It’s over.
Jered: So it’s definitely a stealth game.
Ashley: We never ask – it’s a sniper mission.
Jered: And the best is when no one even knows. It’s just people standing outside and hanging out.
Jered: 99% of the time, we don’t even know really what we’ve just shot. It’s all such a blur. You’re just trying to get a sense of what you’re passing and just shoot it and then later on, you go back to it if you have time and hopefully find it.
Ashley: It’s just so nice, because I feel like it makes you pay attention to what you’re seeing as you go. You know how it gets – it can just be a wall of humans.
Jered: I love it. I think it’s one of our favourite projects. And I think it is, at this point, a labour of love because there are a lot of pictures to go through every time you do it. It’s a real pain. And definitely towards the end of the Tour it starts to wear. But you just know that there’s something in there.
I just feel in a lot of ways they’re maybe the pictures that I’ll look back at when we’re done and say ‘I’m really proud of these.’ I hope.
Jered: I always describe the race as a river and all these people are coming in to look at the wildlife and we’re looking out at them.
Ashley: And they’re our wildlife.
Jered: Whenever I’m not shooting [people on the roadside], I get mad at myself. There’ll be some days when I’m not doing it. And then five minutes go by, and we’ll pass a really good one, and I immediately regret that I wasn’t shooting.
After all these years, what happens if that really, really, really special one is today, and just because I didn’t feel like it, I didn’t shoot it? Now it’s almost a sentence, you know, for life – I need to keep shooting people on the side of the road.
And so, without any further ado, let’s dive into a Tour de France gallery that contains almost no photos of bikes or professional cyclists at all. Instead these photos tell the story of the people around the race.
Stay tuned for further installments in the series as the Tour goes on.
What did you think of this story?