Despite a forecast of rain, we awoke to glorious sunshine.
After breakfast we had a small transfer to get to the beginning of the stage. Taking the autostrade we encountered the usual 3 lanes of traffic.
Lane 1 is for excessive speeding only.
Lane 2 is the slightly-above-the-speed-limit lane - our lane of choice.
Lane 3 is the texting and smoking lane, featuring drivers that regularly cross over the lines as they fumble to light a cigarette or update their Facebook status.
We headed straight for the race route, having decided to drive the first half of the course in search of locations.
Our first stop ended up being a fruit stall on the side of the road, to pick up some more of those delicious cherries I had sampled yesterday (and some strawberries as well).
There wasn’t much to see on the straight roads (through largely agricultural areas), and little in the way of inspiring vistas, so, stocked with fruit, we pushed on.
Finally, after 100km, we arrived in the town of Rovigo. The main street was paved in cobblestones and the town square adorned in ancient ruins. It was also home to the intermediate sprint point (and, at one time, Europe’s largest solar power plant).
We grabbed a quick bite of pizza that was cut from an enormous slab, then weighed and paid for by the gram. At 2 euro for a big slice, it was a bargain.
Once the riders had passed we headed for the finish. Today, the finish was in Vincenza and promised to be popular with the locals, so getting there early was important.
As we left Rovigo the sky clouded over and it started to drizzle. The drizzle soon gave way to heavy, pounding rain. Even with the wipers set to maximum it was becoming difficult to see out the windshield.
It had eased by the time we arrived in Vincenza, however I packed my camera towel just in case.
The Climb of Monte Berico was a fitting end to the stage. A short but very steep climb, the average gradient of 7% is punctuated with pinches of up to 11%. Perfect for puncheurs, the stage was set for an exciting run in to the finish.
I managed to hustle a good position and even after the officials pushed everyone back numerous times I still had a great angle on the finish.
With the riders within 10km of the finish, the crowd at the top of Monte Berico was enormous. The Church steps were crawling with people trying to get a look at the riders and cheer for their favourites.
Then the rain returned – with a vengeance. As it poured down, like a biblical flood, the road started to look like a cascading river.
Looking though the foggy viewfinder, with a towel over my camera, I tried to make out the riders as they came around the corner.
Amongst the mass of the front group I saw one rider break free and make dash for the line. Bikes were swinging from side to side on the brutal gradient, but Philippe Gilbert was too strong and pulled away for a gritty win.
The finish area was swamped as soigneurs busily wrapped the riders in towels and rain jackets – trying to keep them warm.
Aru had lost 14 seconds to Contador (17 seconds total) and came over the line looking a mess.
By that point I was thoroughly soaked and really wanted to get the cameras out of the rain. By the fence a spectator had her umbrella up and I managed to seek refuge for a while.
With so many people all over the road, the team buses had parked at the bottom of the hill, meaning the riders had to negotiate the slippery slope to get back down.
Still, the challenging conditions for photography look set to continue, with another day of rain forecast for tomorrow.
See beardy’s coverage of previous stages below.