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Overnight one of the long-standing contributors to the cycling media announced his retirement. Graham Watson offered an overview of his career as a photographer in a post on his site and thanked some of the people he’s been involved with over the past 38 years as part of the greater peloton of pro cycling.

We spoke to him earlier in the day, knowing – as a publisher ought to – that his news was about to become public. Part one of a quick, off-the-cuff phone interview was published yesterday.

In part two (below) we delve into some of the technical aspects of Watson’s job, and reminisce about some of the things that are special to him about the task of taking photos of bike racing…

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Click the SoundCloud file to listen to the discussion and/or read the transcript below.





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RIDE: I could keep talking to you for a long time but I think it’s fun to do an overview, a summary of what your career means to a lot of people. It’s going to be very odd in the peloton without you there. Do you recognise that?

Graham Watson: “I don’t know. A huge part of me that treats this lifestyle as a job which keeps me out of trouble. I don’t get too involved with the politics and I’m sure… I mean, I was at the Tour Down Under and I didn’t say anything to anybody about what I had planned because it’s a private thing and I wanted to slip away without people knowing.

“But I’m sure a few people will be shocked or surprised a little bit when I’m suddnely not there in Belgium in February and stuff like that but I’m sure most of the athletes at least have got their heads down doing what they’re good at, what they should be doing…

“There’ll be a few comments, I’m sure, and I don’t overestimate my importance in the sport.

“I’ve had a lot of fun and I’ve done a job and pleased myself – and hopefully I’ve pleased quite a few other people. But it is what it is: I’m moving on and I look back with absolutely zero regret.

“There’s nothing I haven’t achieved – I don’t miss not doing something.

“I’ve done everything I think I can do.

“I think I’ve rung every bit of pleasure out of the sport and it’s easy, for me at least, to walk away from it.

“For other people, they might be surprised but I’m sure it won’t last for long.

“There’s a lot going on out there on the road and they’ll move on.”


When you’ve been involved with something so closely for such a long time, it’s easy to become complacent about it, love it, hate it… where are you at with cycling? Do you enjoy it?

“Yeah, I still love it.

“I love every element of it.

“I think, because I said to myself at 55 – and certainly the year when I turned 60 – that, ‘I’ve had enough, I’ve done everything. There’s no point staying around…’

“There was nothing negative.

“You do find yourself, because you’ve said you’re stopping at the end of the season, you do start suddenly switching off a little bit.

“I wouldn’t say I was in autopilot, you know, just going through the process but I was definitely starting to go through the motions a little bit.

“And the professional in me made sure I did my job properly but I think I’d stopped getting too excited and jumping up and down when someone attacked, or whatever…

“I was pulling back already a year ago – it’s just that nobody knew it.

“I think, like you were saying, you take it for granted that you’re in a bike race every day. It doesn’t hurt. You don’t sweat. You do fall off, but not very often. It’s a fairly easy, straightforward way of life and, if you like, I’ve taken it for granted.

“I don’t think I’ll regret it, I don’t think I’ll miss it.

“As you know, you can be on the internet all day long down here (in New Zealand) and follow just about everything that’s going on in the world. You’re never that far away.

“I think I’ll go back to being a fan and just do what most people do, which is just pick up information on the internet and watch it on TV when they can.

“That’s what I think. I don’t know myself what it’ll be like. I’ll just walk away and be grateful for what I got out of the sport and just keep on loving the sport.”


Just in the middle of this interview I’ve had some technical problems but you know all about being able to maintain technology in all sorts of circumstance. What about the evolution of media and the way that you did capture images? We talked about processing black and white film. I know when we started working together, I used to get slides by DHL… and the delivery mechanisms that exist now are so vastly different. Are you nostalgic for the past or would you prefer what we have right now?

“[They are] two completely different forms of photography. One was film – whether they are colour or black and white – and then there was the transition to digital.

“I was taking a laboratory to the Tour de France in my car and developing film, scanning it in, emailing it, just as digital photography took off.

“And then there was pure digital photography which itself has progressed and it’s 10 times more improved than when it first started.

“I can’t say which one I prefer.

“The old days are nostalgic; you took less pictures because you had film to process, clients didn’t want – or expect – to get your pictures for three weeks. You’d go to the Tour de France and come back with about 25 rolls of film in your pocket, and process them, and then the clients would want to see them.

“There was no daily workload. It was: do the race, close down the camera bag, go to the pub, go to the restaurant, go to bed at eight o’clock at night.

“And then digital, of course… with digital came the internet world.

“It became emails, it became FTPs, it became quite a big workload. It enabled you to do a lot more with your photography – and awful lot more. And, to be honest, I’ve made more money out of digital photography than I ever did out of conventional photography.

“But with that digital photography comes a workload that, as you know, keeps you up until midnight every night; you’re lucky to get a meal, if you get a meal it’s very late and you don’t sleep well… you’re up first thing in the morning carrying on with your work from the night before.

“So I don’t know which one I prefer: the one that brought in more money and made it a 24 hour workload – every day, 24/7 – or the old one where you just put your films in your pocket and went down to the pub for a drink after the stage had ended.

“It’s quite a hard one to choose: there’s two opposites.”



– Interview by Rob Arnold