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Our Favorite Cycling Shot Locations

Part 2

In part one, we revealed a few of our favorite cycling production locations from our two principal bases - Italy and Basque Country. We produce audiovisual content from all over the Europe in cycling’s most iconic locations as well as the hidden gems known only to locals. We search far and wide to ensure the best shot types for each and every production.

Some shots require more extreme conditions like the high peaks of the Alps or Dolomites while others require specific locations so that content is relevant ahead of big events in the calendar such as the Tour de France. Others, such as productions with travel companies mean that we film in the exact areas in which our clients operate.

One thing remains constant throughout all of our locations - we search the best location for each and every production. Here, we reveal five more of our preferred locations in central and southern Europe.

Aubisque (Pyrenees, France)

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We were first introduced to the Pyrenees while racing. As pretty much everyone who has raced knows, it’s far from the best way to get to know an area, as the majority of the time you are focused on the talk at hand rather than sight seeing. When Basque Bike contracted us to film a weekend in the Pyrenees, we only remembered the suffering on the long, irregular climbs of the area. As we started our scouting process, we were amazed by the wild, natural beauty of the Pyrenees. We must have been a bit oxygen deprived while racing all those years ago, because we were expecting scenes much more similar to the French Alps and their large, commercial ski areas. The Pyrenees are completely different from their alpine cousins. Upon arrival on the Col d’Aubisque, we were greeted by kilometers of wide roads and wild, open views.

Not a lot of people come to shoot in the Pyrenees despite their fame. We love filming here. The road writing from past Tours de France remind us of the rich cycling history in the area. At the top of the Aubisque, the road writing instantly recalls defining moments in cycling history long after the hoards of roaring fans have gone home. The area gives us so many shot options to tell a story. The choices seem to be as limitless as the outreached mountain peaks on the horizon.

Belchen (Black Forest, Germany)

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Sometimes, you need to stand out. If your content is on the same roads as everyone else, you will look, well, just like everyone else. For this reason, we selected a hidden gem for a production this  past summer - The Black Forest. This enormous natural area near Freiburg, Germany and Basel, Switzerland is not a well known cycling destination outside of the region.  However, its huge network of twisting, forested mountain roads is largely traffic free, and, being maintained by the hyper-organized German state, the roads are in pristine condition. If you don’t have a stabilizer while filming from the car or moto, no problem - the roads are so smooth you can get away without one if needed.

In fact, it’s amazing that there aren’t more races or training camps in the area. The long climbs, cool temperatures, and mixture of dense woods, open views, and characteristic towns and landscapes are perfect for long-rides and film productions alike. Perhaps our favorite road so far is near the Belchen, about 20-30km from Freiburg. The dense woods and switchbacks allow shots with tons of movement by showing contrast with the evergreens or across the constantly twisting roads. Additionally, the combination of dense woods and open areas allow us to capture images in the ideal light throughout the entire day. Some places, like Tuscany or Ventoux (see below), are great places, but high levels of light during the middle of the day limit their potential from an audiovisual & logistical standpoint. Likewise, in these more famous areas we have to be careful about not getting the same shot that 500 other brands have already done. When the shot options are this plentiful and each one is unique, we’re left wanting to extend the shot… and maybe even to sneak in a ride or two!

Collepietra/Steinegg (Dolomites, Italy)

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This small road parallelling the main routes from Bolzano to the Val di Fassa will likely never see a stage of even the Giro del Trentino (now Tour of the Alps), much less a stage of the Giro d’Italia. For us, however, it couldn’t be a better place to film. This road is about the width of a bike path, meaning that there is very little traffic. It winds through pine forests, offering open majestic views of jagged Dolomite peaks. Apart from filming from the side or at very high-speeds behind the car, we can do just about anything here. We’ve used the beautiful scenery as a backdrop for panoramic drone shots and detailed product shots.

It’s one of those places that is perfect to create an entire social-media storytelling campaign or tie together with shots of the nearby Dolomite valleys or Bolzano just minutes below.

There are few places in the world that can boast the iconic scenery and unique, little-known set all in one location. In places like these, we can create numerous stories in various ways to make unique, iconic content. Places like this are rare beauties, and make the shot so unique.

Ventoux (Provence, France)

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Ventoux is one of the most iconic places in cycling. Virtually every meter of the road snaking up to the barren, moonscape peak has played host to memorable moments in cycling history from Tom Simpson to Pantani vs. Armstrong. Perhaps it is the seemingly extraterrestrial landscape combined with the superhuman feats we see any time the Giant of Provence features in Le Tour that bring such strong emotions when producing here. However, we produce in many famous places steeped in cycling history, so this is only a part of the reason we enjoy filming here so much.  

Anyone who has ridden Mt. Ventoux will tell you that it’s a tale of two climbs. We prefer the classic ascent from Bedoin where the wooded road to Chalet Reynard sets our stage for the first part of the climb. Unlike our other favorite climbs, this part of Ventoux is almost void of switchbacks, leaving us plenty of opportunities for long, continuous shots of all sorts. Gradually, the music begins to change when the famous summit first peaks through the trees a couple of kilometers before Chalet Reynard.

After passing the Chalet, the second part of the climb begins in earnest. The landscape turns abruptly open with the constant views of the summit that are perhaps some of the most famous in cycling. The absence of trees allows for wider shots across the rocky land. If you are as lucky as we were, the road will closed to traffic for high wind. As we cycled up the road to our favorite areas, protected from the wind by only the mountainside, we were able to have our pick of almost any shot we wanted (except the drone, which we preferred not to find in the mediterranean from the 100km/hour wind gusts). How often does one get the opportunity to have the camera rolling while the videographer is sat in the middle of one of cycling’s most famous roads? It was an unforgettable experience, and one we’ll be looking to repeat. Here’s to hoping for wind advisories the next time we are in Provence.

Passo del Pidocchio (Verona, Italy)

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The little known Lessinia Mountains above Verona are a hidden gem both for riding and creating great audiovisual content. There is hardly any traffic and a mix of flats, climbs, open views, forests, straight and sinuous roads on this high plain above the Adige Valley which marks a geographical center point between the provinces of Trento, Vicenza, and Verona. However, the area is best accessed from Verona. The Passo del Pidocchio is perhaps our favorite part of the entire area for audiovisual productions.

Situated just above the long and terribly steep Sdruzzina where Bradley Wiggins famously threw his bike into a parking spot against a cliff wall, the Passo del Pidocchio offers a roughly 15km ring road that is almost perfect for filming. The fact it’s a ring road at around 1300m above sea level means there is almost no traffic apart from cattle and other cyclists. In fact, our former training partners and teammates  from Verona and Trento often come to this very loop to train when there isn’t enough time to go to far away training camps ahead of the Vuelta a Espana or World Cups and the temperature in Verona and Trento creeps into the 40’s Celsius (105+ F). For our productions, we have the option to use narrow switchbacks, wooded roads, and the unique Pre-Dolomite landscapes overlooking the peaks of the Monte Baldo across the Adige River Valley and in the shadows of the Monte Carega at over 1800m.

Given the area is relatively unknown outside of the region, we are able to “play” with all sorts of shots, changing shot angles to get just the frame we want while remaining unique and authentic in the world of cycling. Whether it’s a drone or shot from a moving car, the video and photos from this area are always on point - they turn out right in line with the project goals. We are constantly amazed by the number of quality shots we get from a relatively short stretch of road. It goes to show that it pays to follow the pro’s lead if you’re after authentic scenes. To our knowledge, the area has never seen the Giro d’Italia, but you wouldn’t know from riding through it. Perhaps it’s time for a visit from the Corsa Rosa.

Our Favorite Cycling Shot Locations - Part 1

Each road, each region, sets the scene for different types of stories. At Content Lab we spend an inordinate amount of time studying maps, scouting (preferably by bike), and listening to other cyclists’ accounts of the best roads to ride around Europe. One may be surprised, but more often than not, the most iconic climbs are not ideal for filming. Traffic, extraneous “sights” such as cables, road surface, and sun angles at various times of the day all contribute to the quality of our shot set. For these very reasons, we have a select list of our favorite climbs on which to shoot. Most will never see a stage finish of the Giro or Tour, although some have played some very significant roles in the history of cycling be it in famous races, or as training roads for the sport’s stars.

Here are our favorite climbs to film and photograph for their natural beauty and how they allow the models to work fantastically from both sides of the lens.

  • Col d’Ispeguy (Basque Country - France/Spain)

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This is the testing ground for pro and amateur cyclists from the French Basque Country. Riders from Pamplona based teams such as Caja Rural come as well during their long, mountainous rides in preparation for big stage rages, including the Vuelta a Espana. The Ispeguy tops out at the French - Spanish border in the heart of Basque Country.

We love filming on this climb as the two sides offer distinct types of shots. On the French side, the climb is long and steady, offering views that could be confused with high Pyrenean peaks like the Tourmalet or Col du Soulor even though it tops out at only 672m. This means that we have access to Pyrenean scenery all year long - if it happens to snow here, it’ll be gone in a day or two.  

The Spanish side is less open apart from the top couple of kilometers. The combination of open views, woods, switchbacks, a relatively wide road, and great asphalt means that we can combine almost any types of shots we dream up - Drone, from the front, side, or back of the car, or using the tele lens across the mountain as the road winds up the side. If there were a Hollywood of cycling productions, this would surely be one of the film sets.

  • Passo Pordoi (Bolzano/Belluno, Italy)

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This one is somewhat obvious. There’s a reason the Sella Ronda is a UNESCO world heritage sight. Here, it’s a paradise for just about anything outdoors, not just filming and photography. If you like cycling, hiking, or skiing, it’d be hard to find a better place than 4 passes that compose the Sella Ronda group - the Pordoi, Campolongo, Gardena, and Sella.

The Passo Pordoi, however, has a special place in our hearts though, as we were once caught in an early-autumn snowstorm forcing us to stop in Arabba at the base of the Passo Campolongo and Passo Pordoi. We’ve always loved the Pordoi's open switchbacks snaking below the towering, jagged Dolomite peaks, but this forced delay turned out to be memorable. After spending the night “trapped” in the snowstorm in Arabba, we awoke to a completely white landscape - in September! The car thermometer read -1C! It was too good an opportunity to pass up. We loaded the drone, bike, and camera back into the car and took off toward the summit. The images speak for themselves.

  • Lizarrieta (Basque Country - France/Spain)

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A little known pass, used by the Basque underground resistance during WWII to smuggle jewish refugees and allied POWs into neutral Spain, this climb tops out on the French/Spanish border. On the French side, the Basque region of Lapurdi, on the Spanish, the Basque region of Navarra.

Like in the days of the war, there is very little traffic on the narrow, sinuous road. On the French side, as the road switches back and forth over itself, there are numerous opportunities to capture the true cycling spirit from different angles - from the back of the car to classic switchback shots. Until recently, the road was rough and damaged, meaning that filming from the car required a high-quality stabilizer, but thanks to the inclusion of the Lizarrieta in the 2016 Vuelta a España, the top 2km are perfectly asphalted.  

The Spanish side is a joy to film. The road is slightly less steep and offers up switchbacks and sweeping views of the Bidasoa Valley. Towards the top, there are numerous switchbacks stacked on top of each other offering opportunities to shoot from higher angles.

  • Gorramendi (Basque Country -  Spain)

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The climb to nowhere. If you need a road with no traffic and lush, green countryside all year and the occasional view of the Atlantic, this is your place. Situated in Navarra in Spanish Basque Country, this road is used mostly by hikers and Pottok (tiny Basque ponies), meaning that we can count on car free shots 99.9% of the time. To boot, the green valley below allows us to create summer scenes in the middle of winter. The one downside is that the road surface ranges from bad to terrible.

When filming, a quality stabilizer is a must. Alternatively, if you’ve got a drone pilot and drone able to handle the gusts from the nearby Atlantic, you’ll get some fantastic material.

  • Bormio 2000 (Bormio, Italy)

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Most people who go to Bormio are drawn  to the Passo dello Stelvio and the Passo Gavia, and for good reason. They offer up magnificent views and are arguably the two most iconic climbs in Italian cycling. It’s hard to beat what they offer and that they can both be filmed from the same home base of Bormio. However, they have one downside - summer traffic.

One summer, after days of filming on those two giants, we were tasked with filming riders climbing behind the car chatting and joking as they would on a ride. The beautiful day must have attracted every Swiss, Italian, and Austrian tourist because every time we got the shot set up and rolling, another car or motorcycle entered the frame. CUT!

Remembering my own suffering on a road that led out the back side of town as a professional back in 2011, I asked our models, both of whom are from the Alta Valtellina, about Bormio 2000. They had only been to ski in the winter they said. We gave it a try and got exactly what we were looking for - No traffic, forested Alpine roads, and a picture of satisfied suffering on the bike from the models as they chased the car up the climb. Mission accomplished.


 

Tuscany

FOCUS ON

TUSCANY

Why Tuscany? Why are we drawn to film and photograph this specific area?

Is it for the cypress lined white roads? Is it for the famed bell towers marking the landscape of the rolling hills? Is it for the rustic culinary delights? Is it because this is the heart of Italian cycling, where young riders from north to south flock to hone their skills over the endless hills and twisting roads?

Certainly, there are more grandiose places in Italy. The jagged peaks of the Dolomites have decided countless Giri d’Italia, and Rome itself rests only about 200km to the south. There is something about Tuscany that brings an inherent balance. The landscapes, the colors - contrasting and complimentary, the culture all draw us here to create, much like a Renaissance painter hundreds of years ago.

When you’re here, you’re exactly where you need to be. This is why we choose Tuscany. Here, you don’t just capture images, the scenes become part of the creation.