First world problems
It is rare that one stage can deliver so many photo opportunities - and yet we found ourselves spoilt for choice when it came to planning for stage 16. Having already scouted the Stelvio Pass for yesterday’s rest day feature, we knew the photo possibilities would be almost endless.
But races are races, and we needed to choose our few spots wisely - or risk missing the magic. Based on our ride up yesterday I settled on a plan; we would catch the first riders on the top of the climb before, in typical Beardy’s Caravan style, legging it down to the descent for that classic Stelvio view from the Trafoi side.
Banner in the works
After carefully reviewing the terrain, I picked my first spot on one of the few remaining clear sections of road. From here I would be able to see the first riders, without throngs of spectators or piles of bikes blocking the view. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a bit of chaos in my shot as much as the next guy. Only it needs to be total chaos, with people everywhere. On this section it was only half-assed chaos - so I went for serenity instead.
No sooner had I settled into my spot, even taking the time to roll up my sleeves to even out the tan lines, than someone obnoxiously stuck a banner across it. Seriously, like, right in front of me.
I tried reasoning with the culprit but he took immediate and passionate offence, thinking, perhaps, that I disliked his banner. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that it wasn’t the banner that was getting on my nerves. It soon became clear, however, that neither him, nor his banner, were willing to budge - so I left in a huff looking for another location while I still had time.
Running up that hill
Running to the descent was quite an experience with hundreds of spectators cheering me on as they waited for the next riders. ‘Vai! Vai! Vai!’ yelled the crowd as I did my best impersonation of running at high altitude.
Stuntman does Stelvio II, Electric Boogaloo
Once the last of the riders had passed, Stuntman Mike and I decided to put the bikes we’d been lugging around to good use, ditching the car and, instead, riding to top of the next climb (the Passo Umbrail). This turned out to be a stroke of genius, allowing us to effortlessly weave between stopped cars and thousands of people either walking or riding.
My red photographer's vest, coupled with a camera slung over each shoulder, must have looked amusing because I was getting snapped almost as much as the riders (thanks Kristof Ramon for the shot). Still, the bikes came in handy as the race had, by now, fractured into a million pieces, meaning we could ride between groups and collect shots from different locations along the way.
I got carried away and ended up too far away from the car to head back, so, after the race was finished, I descended to the finish, leaving the Stuntman to ride back up and get it. He's still not back...