After the events of yesterday the peloton was buzzing, and I decided that the start was a good place to be. The team buses were stuck in amongst the traffic, with officials, teams, press and spectators all cramped into a small, narrow street in the centre of Forli. It was all taking so long to get started I stopped to enjoy a coffee at a local cafe.
I grabbed a couple of quick shots around sign-in and then hastily escaped along the race route to the first categorised climb - Passo del Trebbio.
500m from the top the road snaked around a couple of switchbacks. The crowd was starting to build, climbing the steep embankments to get to the best vantage points. The view out over the undulating landscape was stunning, with not a flat road to be seen.
As for me, I walked up and down the mountain, looking for the best angles. On what felt like my 3rd pass, an older gentleman took pity of me, signalled me over and gave me a handful of local cherries. They were sweet with just a hint of tartness – delicious.
Finally, the riders came stomping up the climb. With the gradient approaching 11%, they were already working hard.
I took my shot and jumped in the car. We quickly caught up with the race, driving on the back of the convoy until we reached the turn off for Imola and the race finish.
The stage finish was at a F1 race track near Imola, Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari, named for Enzo Ferrari and his first son and heir. Despite this lofty heritage the finish itself was wide and boring through the lens, so I decided that the climb of Tre Monti was where the action would be.
It looked like I was on the money – Tre Monti was buzzing with people – despite the rain that had started to fall. Makeshift umbrellas made from copies of La Grazzetta dello Sport, plastic bags for rain capes, and disposable ponchos were everywhere.
I climbed up a muddy embankment to get a long shot down the road. Slipping and sliding in the mud, I grabbed a local’s leg to stop myself sliding down. He didn’t seem to mind too much. Still, moments later I took a spill, leaving me covered in mud from the waist down.
Just as the riders approached, the rain got heavy. So heavy I needed a towel placed over the camera to keep it dry.
The riders were soaked, squinting into the rain. Still, the 10-man breakaway looked strong.
On the last of the 3 laps of the climb, Contador attacked the other GC riders, prompting a scramble to neutralise his push for seconds. Aru was slow to respond as his Astana teammate clung to the wily Spaniard’s wheel.
Further up the road, Ilnur Zakarin had launched an attack on the penultimate climb, and managed to hold off the rest of the breakaway to record a great tactical victory. It has been heartening to see so many breakaway victories in a grand tour!
As the last riders made their way over the climb for the last time, we packed up our rain-soaked gear and tried to keep warm.
By this time we were so wet and muddy, we walked through puddles to try and clean our shoes.
A guy came over to me and showed me some pictures on his phone. It turned out I had met him last year at the Giro after he had recognised me, and our 2014 selfie was still the wallpaper on his phone. So, for the sake of posterity, we took another selfie.
As we waited for the crowds to subside, the rain finally cleared. The sun returned, revealing a beautiful view out over the patchwork of grape vines.
See beardy’s coverage of previous stages below.