The first of the high mountains and we were heading to the heart of the Dolomites.
Today's plan was to photograph two of the six categorised climbs – the Passo Pordoi and the brutal, yet beautiful, Passo Giau.
We made it to Pordoi without any dramas - we even had time for a sneaky espresso while watching the promotional caravana roll past.
We have become quite fond of the Festina vehicle, which we have nicknamed “The Fish”. I gave the guy driving a big thumbs-up - he's alright in my book.
We caught up with him again shortly afterwards - The Fish was broken down halfway up the pass. A puff of black smoke and they managed to get the monstrosity rolling again. I didn't know my thumb was that powerful...
It was similarly hard work in our hire car, driving in race conditions on these windy mountain roads. The worst bit, however, is trying to find a parking space when the sides of the roads are packed with fans. Sometimes you just need to park wherever you can - be it in a ditch, on snow, mud, crumbling road edges or preciously teetering out on the edge of a cliff.
On the first climb the race was already falling to pieces. Between groups of riders we thought it would be a good idea to run around on the mountain to get as many shots as possible. The high altitude and a diet of pizza, beer and grissini meant we were puffing like crazy in no time.
The route from Pordoi to Giau was amazing! The type of jaw-dropping scenery that only the high mountains can deliver. Snapping away out the window there was, unfortunately, no time to stop and take it all in.
Just minutes from rejoining the race route, we hit a massive hiccup in our plan. The road was closed to all vehicles. Our accreditation counted for nothing and no amount of negotiation was going to change the police officer’s mind. In fact he said the entire Giau Pass was closed to all cars, including press. This was going to totally stuff us unless we could find another road leading to the climb. I checked the map and it looked like there was one more option to try – but if we went for it and failed, it was game over.
It made for tense times in the car, and I was regularly checking the progress of the riders. We would only be moments ahead – assuming we could even get back on the course.
We rounded the last bend and had to hit the brakes – traffic was banked up. I crossed my fingers and prayed to the Giro gods. A shake of the head from the police manning the gate and it seemed like it was all over.
However, if there is one thing I have leant from my previous Giro misadventures – it is that persistence is the key. So we didn’t give up and kept pointing in the direction of the course then at the press sticker on the window. Luckily, after a couple of agonising minutes, we got the wave of the paddle onnipotenza. The tape across the road was lifted, and we were through.
See beardy’s coverage of previous stages below.