Luca Bettini has the best seat in the house at the Tour de France. Well one of them anyway. The 24 year old Italian photographer is following the entire Tour as a race photographer for the first time. Racy Language spoke to the laid back young Italian as he followed in the footsteps of his father Roberto Bettini, the top Italian cycling photographer.
"Actually this is the third time I've done the Tour, but never done the whole thing as the main photographer", Luca explained the other day in the Village Depart. "I was there to help my father the first time and then last year I was on the motorcycle at the Tour, which is kind of crazy."
Luca's father Roberto is at home in Milano this year, coordinating all the photo services that the family firm, Bettini Photo has during the Tour. "We shoot for La Gazzetta dell Sport, all the Italian magazines and a lot of private clients", said Luca, "so there is always a lot to do. The Tour is no vacation! It's more work than the Giro d'Italia."
Luca is shooting from one of the Tour de France motor-bikes every day, driven by his father's long-time driver Gianni Zuchetti. "Even if I am still learning the ropes, with Gianni, I never have to worry", said Luca. "Gianni has so much experience driving the motor that he always puts me in the right position to get the shot."
Unlike the Giro d'Italia when the Bettini Photo crew has three shooters, at the Tour, Luca is on his own. "Once we do most of the stage, we usually end up going ahead to get the to the finish line shot. That's always a tense time because if you go forward too soon you might miss the key action, the best shot of the day. If you go too late, you might not get through the traffic to get the finish."
If you are wondering how Luca Bettini got on a photo moto at Le Tour, it's not just because his father worked as a race photographer for 25 years. "After high school, I went to a school that specialized in photography. I have been going to races with my dad since I was a kid, but never thought I would become a cycling photographer. But I got interested in photography, art photography and landscape photography, and kind of fell into working with my father. But it is a special world, the people are great and I really enjoy my work."
We asked Luca Bettini about his earliest memories of bike racing and he smiled as he recalled "I remember when I was a little kid my family went up to the Tour of Switzerland to see my dad. It was near our home in Milano and we went up in the mountains to have a picnic. I was busy playing soccer with my sisters and brothers and suddenly the race came by. My dad stopped on the motorcycle with a big camera around his neck and I thought it was so cool!"
Even though he gets to see bike racing up close and personal, Luca Bettini isn't starstruck at all. "Sure I like to take shots of the big name riders, like Basso and Contador. But what I enjoy most is watching the gregari working; the guys who bring the water bottles up to the stars. Guys like Paolo Longo Borghini or Danny Pate, guys like that. They are my real heros in cycling, not the stars. They work so hard and suffer a lot. That is the real cycling to me." At 24, Luca Bettini has his head squarely on his shoulders and many years ahead of him as a cycling photographer.