Finally, some sunshine. My camera bag was still a little moist - luckily I'd taken everything out overnight, trying to avoid any damage from three days of shooting in the wet.
Today’s stage started in the town of Marostica, with sign-on taking place in a castle - we had to check that out!
On the way we stopped for fuel. Being Sunday we could only pre-pay for diesel at the pump because the attendants had the day off, and were most probably watching the Giro.
The first pump wouldn't accept our credit card so we went to another service station and had the same problem. With only 20 euro left in cash, plus a couple of coins, we purchased as much fuel as we could afford.
As we approached the start, the traffic was banked up on every street we tried. Ditching the map we picked what we thought would be the best option and watched as more and more cars joined the pile-up. The other drivers didn’t seemed too stressed, so we waited.
Eventually, the road cleared and we grabbed a plum spot for a speedy getaway.
The castle proved a stunning location for sign-on, with the exception of the rather narrow doorway. It seemed so out of place in such a grand setting.
I found my spot nearby and settled in, waiting for the riders to come rolling through. In typical fashion, however, a Giro official quickly came over and told me to move. According to him it was too narrow and the riders needed more room.
I pleaded with him and eventually he agreed to let me get a couple of shots before moving along. However, as soon as the riders started to roll past, the other photographers flocked like seagulls, filling the narrow corridor. The official tried to move them on, but he was fighting a losing battle.
Eventually he fetched security and together they managed to clear the entry.
Satisfied with the images, we hopped back in the car and sped off to get a good spot on the climb to La Fricca.
3km from the top there was a crowd gathering around a series of switchbacks, where you could catch a glimpse of the riders making their way up. There was a small breakaway in front of the main group searching for King of the Mountains points.
The riders were already stretched out into a long snake winding up the mountain with two climbs still to go. With no way to catch the second climb and still make it to the finish, we took the detour and headed straight to Madonna di Campiglio.
The day was getting long and there was still about an hour to the finish, so we stopped to find some food.
There was only a single bar open. Time was short, so I ran in quickly scanned the place. All I could find were some crisps so I grabbed two bags and paid with the couple of coins we had left.
A bag of crisps and a can of Chinotto doesn’t provide all the daily sustenance one needs but, hey, when in Rome…
By the time we got to Madonna di Campiglio the place was already overrun with fans, and no one seemed to know where we were supposed to park.
With the riders already on the final climb, and time running out, we just parked to the footpath and ran to the ski lift that would take us directly to the finish. It felt a little like an episode of the Amazing Race.
Riding the chair lift, looking peacefully out over the snow-capped mountain peaks, was like the calm before the storm. However the serenity was soon punctuated by the distant sound of helicopters, reminding us that time was short.
After making it to the top and dashing to the finish line we found that the riders were within the 5km mark, and that the race was exploding. Contador looked unflappable, with Aru hanging on for dear life.
It was time to get my angle sorted and focus on the finish line, but no one could take their eyes off the giant screen showing the action. It was riveting stuff.
Finally, with 1km to go I zoomed in and got ready to spot the riders in my viewfinder – when, all of a sudden, the camera died. All that rain – it was almost inevitable, I told myself. Still, I desperately needed to get it going again – with now only 400m to go.
I changed the batteries, gave it an educated whack, muttered a few ‘hail marys’ (amongst other things), and tried turning it off and on again. After a few repetitions, it sputtered back to life, just in time to see Mikel Landa raising his arms in the air. Click, click, click.
The cold sweat was gone as a sense of relief washed over me. Still, I checked the camera screen to make sure the images came through – just in case.
See beardy’s coverage of previous stages below.