I’m not expecting any sympathy but the morning of day four dawned far too early, by day four of a photoshoot it starts to take its toll.
I know it’s not exactly life at the coal face but early starts, late nights and sprinting on demand has definitely started to have effect on the energy levels of the group and yesterday’s sea level to summit ascent of Mt Teide has generated a fair amount of muscle soreness.
The main focus of the day was to be on top of Mt Teide for the last few hours of golden sunlight but unfortunately I could not allow us to enjoy some sun and steady riding during the day as it’s a waste of valuable photographic opportunities. This could be the reason the group have started referring to me as the ‘dictator’ instead of ‘director’ of this shoot.
We started the day with a three-hour local ride with Andy Jones leapfrogging ahead of the group in the van to scope out corners and catch pictures on the run. One thing I have learnt about Tenerife is that there is no such thing as a flat road, straight out the door we were into a climb.
As my breathing started to get more laboured and the gap in front stretched out I kept hoping that Andy had found something picturesque to shoot round the next corner. Any excuse for a breather.
When you are looking for locations you often need to see beyond the obvious, one of our best pics from the morning was taken in a two metre stretch between a bin and a parked car. We had to ride at the car looking through it as if it wasn’t there and flick round it at the last minute, just before piling into its rear bumper.
Back to the house and there is no opportunity to chill out, we have an hour turn around before loading the van for Mt Teide and we need some shots of people eating lunch so even whilst shovelling down sandwiches in a hopefully photogenic way the models are on duty.
Mt Teide has a unique weather system, the cloud that encircles it seems to move up and down its slopes, sometimes it is cloudy at the top but more frequently it is cloudy low down and the summit is glorious sunshine.
On our descent last night there was cloud cover between 1200m and 800m so we thought we’d head there for some atmospheric shots before moving to the upper slopes however the weather was against us. Low down on the corners that we had ear-marked for spring and summer pictures it was cloudy and the section chosen for the autumn mist pictures was glorious sunshine. Higher up still and it was hot and sunny, it’s a contradiction to the usual mountain climbing where it normally gets cooler as you get higher.
Dusk falls rapidly here, it goes from bright to pitch black in under ten minutes. It was dark on our recce by 6.04pm so we knew that by 5.30pm time was limited. Our photographer George Marshall became more frantic in his shots for ‘and the same again please’ and I found myself shouting ‘Go, go, go’ at riders as they came back past the camera ready for the next shot.
By 5.45pm we were relying more on flash than sunlight and we could see the sun dropping rapidly behind the jagged outcrops of volcanic rock. We switched from riding in the saddle to stood up, desperately trying to catch a bit more light on our faces. We called time at 6.01pm, there was still sun above us but it had gone from the faces of the riders and the road.
Thanks to the cloud inversion the top of the mountain was still bright and clear but below us the setting sun lit up a bank of clouds turning the edges pink and sending orange streaks across the clear blue sky above.
It’s a sight not to be missed but even given the drama of the sunset most of us were nodding off the minute we left the car park leaving Stuart from Polka Dot Cycling holidays with the unenviable task of negotiating a mini-bus full of sleeping cyclists down a steep and twisty mountain road.