Shards of class
Good news everyone! Stuntman Mike eventually returned from the Stelvio, looking a lot less volatile than I was expecting. I put the smashed beer bottle I had been holding for self-protection down, and we got to work. It was our longest night yet, on account of the sheer volume of photos to be processed, bikes to be repacked, and, you know, starting late because I ditched him on the mountain...
The organisers would offer us no quarter, starting today’s stage even earlier than usual. Despite the magnitude of yesterday’s activities, and what the riders had put themselves through (shout out to my man Tommy D - hang on buddy, literally) there would be no mercy on stage 17 for weary heads and aching legs.
I almost slept straight through the alarm thanks to my, now mandatory, earplugs and blindfold (Beardy's Caravan essentials for getting a good night's sleep). We made it to the start with just enough time to pick up groceries for the day, before hitting the road.
Our first stop was a service station, pulling in for coffees and complimentary bar snacks. The Stuntman has become addicted to anchovies. Personally, I couldn’t think of anything worse to accompany my coffee.
Have any good anchovy recipes? Feel free to drop them to him via an Instagram comment (you can also find more great photos from our adventures on his feed).
Our next spot was on Passo Tonale (or ‘toenail’, as we’ve since nicknamed it, on account of the GPS pronunciation).
The road had just had a fresh coat of asphalt, courtesy of the 100th Giro d’Italia, and it was as smooth as a Stuntman pickup line.
After prolonged discussions amongst fellow photographers, it was roundly decided that making the finish would be near-impossible if you stopped along the way. Special Kei calculated a 5 minute gap between any break and peloton would be the cut-off for him. I decided it was worth the risk, however, after passing the point of no return, the gap between the riders began to stretch. It had reached a calamitous 13 minutes by the time they hit the summit.
We were not sure if our diversion was still an option, but we pushed on anyway. As usual, la polizia locale had other ideas, stopping our convoy of press and team cars to open the road to local traffic.
What followed could only be regarded as a debacle of grand proportions, as we ‘threaded the needle’ between tractors, trucks, slow moving Fiat Pandas and darting felines. Luckily our car came with Stuntman Sympatico as standard, allowing driver and machine to meld into one glorious blur of rally-like exuberance.
I’m not sure how but we made it to the finish to see Pierre Rolland take the stage win - but we did. We also couldn’t help but feel our own sense of victory at having ticked-off, and survived, another stage. We’ll sleep well tonight.