It's Sunday - and nothing is open. Which is fine if you are a local with a well-stocked refrigerator. However, when you are on the road, it's a different story.
After a late night we started slowly. Behind schedule, I found myself rushing to get a shot of the riders as they set off down Benevento’s beautiful (and historic) streets.
The way out of the city was a one-way street, and the end of that street was closed for the race (and blocked with cars). Left with no option, we navigated our way out on narrow streets built long before cars were first considered.
Nevertheless, despite some close calls, we escaped without a scratch and found our way back onto the race route.
Starting the first of three categorised climbs we were surrounded by beautiful bright green Beechwood trees. The climb wound up the mountain for 20 kilometres or so and somewhere in the middle I got a glimpse of the road below. It was quite a way down and there were a couple of people riding up to watch the stage.
I was torn – should I stay and get this shot or will the summit reveal a more spectacular view?
I decided to press on to the top, until I discovered it was closer than I expected, with the road levelling out. I was about to swing the car around when the Polizia pulled up, telling me to keep going as the riders had hit the base of the climb.
I had no choice but to carry on – from there it was only 5 kilometres to the turn off for the final climb – a short, steep section that was sure to see the riders putting it all down on the road.
The feed zone was just over the top and team cars were already getting into position, soigneur arms loaded with musettes.
The clearing in the trees ended and the road was engulfed by a thick forest. ‘This is the spot’ I thought, ‘I can shoot here’.
Walking through the forest the air was cool and damp. The sunlight was just filtering through, leaving the forest quite dark.
As the riders passed they discarded their bottles and musettes. I walked back along the road to the car, picking up a stray musette along the way. It was full of energy bars.
By that stage it was 2pm and I was hungry, so I tucked into a couple of the bars to keep me going. However, before I could grab another musette, two guys on a Vespa buzzed past and picked them all up – zooming away with my afternoon snack.
Suddenly a van came around the corner with the door open. Inside there was a pile of musettes and bidons, on the seat next to the driver. Jackpot.
Our last location for the day was supposed to be Passo Serra. However, as we arrived, I was underwhelmed by the shot and decided to continue on to the finish.
There was a pizzeria open near the press parking at the finish, and a good one at that. After too many energy bars a good slice of pizza was heaven. The race was playing at the pizzeria and I was tempted to settle in. Unfortunately, the riders were also getting close, so I finished my slice and made my way to the finish line.
It was busy today in the press pack, with a slight bend in the finishing straight pushing all the photographers to the one side.
We were packed in like a mosh pit, complete with cameras and colourful bibs.
Paolo Tiralongo crossed the finish line to a thunderous cheer from the home crowd – the locals lapping up the Italian victory. I ran after Tiralongo as he finished to get some close-ups. He even gave me a thumbs up!
While I was there I noticed Tom-Jelte Slagter collapsed on the ground with Ryder Hesjedal asking him what happened. It’d looked like he had it in the bag.
After another exciting day on the Caravan (but after 9 long days and nights), I’m looking forward to a rest day as much as the riders. See you on the other side.
See beardy’s coverage of previous stages below.