The Tour de France is the biggest cycling race in the world. In 2023, Team Jumbo-Visma launched a special jersey to wear exclusively in this legendary race. Join me in a look behind the scenes shooting the photos to launch this Tour de France jersey.

Yellow jersey

In the world of road cycling, there’s a variety of major races. These range from intense one day races in Belgium to multiple day stage races in various European countries. There’s one race more famous than all the others though: the Tour de France. No matter whether you’re into cycling or not, you’ll have heard of this race. It features three weeks of intense stages all across France, with all the best riders in the world entering. Many fans are glued to their televisions for three weeks so they don’t miss a single moment of action.

The leader in the general classification gets to wear the coveted yellow jersey. As Team Jumbo-Visma’s regular jersey is also predominantly yellow, the team opts to wear a different jersey for this race. This increases visibility and also allows them to do something special for the biggest race of the year.

In this blog post I’ll share my experiences preparing and executing several photoshoots in multiple locations, to create images that were used in launching the jersey.

Preparing for the shoot for the Tour de France jersey

For this shirt, Jumbo-Visma partnered with the nostalgic Efteling theme park, actually not too far from where I was born. Specifically, the jersey centers around the theme of VĂ©lodrome, a nostalgic merry go round. In Dutch, this also loosely translates to a cycling dream. The thema of the campaign and jersey is dreaming, and making those dreams come true.

Check out the album for this series on shooting the Tour de France jersey.

This inspired my creative brief. The project consisted of multiple shoots, with multiple riders, shots across Europe. All riders that would enter in the Tour de France for Jumbo-Visma had to have a range of portraits shot. This included both the male and female teams for the Tour. We also shots some images outdoors that had more of a lifestyle feel. These shoots happened in Belgium and France. Finally, I joined the team in Sierra Nevada, Spain. Here, I captured action images of the Tour de France squad during training. Here, I also shot the studio portraits of the riders who weren’t present at the earlier shoots.

Creative execution

For the portraits, I set up a studio on location. I really wanted to establish a bit of a dreamy feel. For this reason I had the subject look off to the side and up, looking straight at my main light. This gave their expression a touch of bright hope. As I had to set up the studio in multiple locations with restricted space, I kept my setup relatively simple. As the portraits would be cut out from the background, consistency in its tone wasn’t crucial.

We shot a number of different poses for each rider, including close-ups and full body shots. The goal was to set the mood in a couple of images that would be used for visuals, but also really to show off the Tour de France jersey and highlights its unique features. The jersey had a number of special details, including the Efteling and VĂ©lodrome logo. In addition, each rider had a unique dream printed on the back of their jersey. This print included the date and location of when the dream came true. Moreover, the starry sky for the exact date of the dream coming true was included.

After each studio shoot, I took the rider outdoors to shoot some lifestyle images in a cycling context with natural light. This was more of an improvised, work with what you’ve got shoot. These images needed to have a more authentic look and show the riders wearing the jersey in a natural setting.

Finally, at the Sierra Nevada training stage I had an extensive shotlist. We captured a wide range of action shots, riding solo and in groups. These images had to look natural but slightly stylised, using the environment, light and colours to create an appealing image.

Working with the riders

Having worked with most of the riders for a few years now, it was easy to direct them and have a good time while shooting. In my experience, it’s vital to always work fast and prepare well. Athletes have busy schedules and try to be mindful of their energy. Shoots should be quick and efficient, and as a photographer you should have your act together. This means you completely prepared you set and you don’t have to test the light, for instance.

Still it can be nice to experiment a little bit with different poses and light. In these instances, having the trust of the rider can go a long way. If they know you always work quickly and get what you need in an efficient way, they’ll give you a little credit if you want to try something and switch it up.

Especially while directing the riders during their training session, it really helped that I know them well and am very familiar with the sport. Directing world class cyclists from the back of a moving car to obtain just the right composition can be a bit of a challenge. Having done this for a few years now, I was aware of how to communicate with them and also knew to respect the limitations. We have to be well aware of safety regarding other traffic, dangerous turns and downhills, and respect not asking too much of the riders physically.

Editing and results

After shooting in these different locations with a wide range of different riders, we had to bring together the images to form a coherent series. While editing the studio images, I opted to increase contrast and saturation quite a bit, to make them pop and give them a vivid feel. As for the action images, I chose to give them a warm feel that went well with the sunny location. The portrait images were used in a large number of visuals that were shared by both the team and each rider on their social media channels. Clothing brand AGU also used the images on their website.

Making the dream come true

As I’m writing this blog post, the Tour de France is fully underway. Whether these riders will make their dream of winning the race again come true remains unknown, but it’s pretty amazing to now see this beautiful Tour de France jersey in action on television every day. I joined the team on the first few days of the race. which was a nice way to complete the story from the inception of the jersey to it being worn in the race it was created for.