Today was the last start we would attend for the 100th Giro d’Italia. The riders, however, were determined to spoil the party, with very few having left the sanctuary of the team buses before we needed to leave.
Seemingly unruffled by this game of hide-and-seek, the gathered crowds of stage 20 were standing their ground. The stand-off was particularly noticeable around the Movistar bus, with spectators pressing in, trying to catch a glimpse of the strangely reclusive Quintana in his natural habitat.
UCI officials were taking advantage of the relative lack of team activity, keeping a keen eye on the bikes, always on the lookout for hidden motors. As a staunch proponent of anti-doping this is always encouraging to see. Still, one can’t help but sympathise with the riders - their weary legs sure could use a boost after 19 long days!
The Red Baron and his mates did a biplane flyover, dumping plumes of tricolour smoke above the crowd. The end was nigh.
The first climb was heaving with people and was, quite possibly, the hottest place of the entire Giro so far. I mean that both figuratively and literally - it felt like the asphalt was melting in the sun, and the smell of burning clutches filled the air.
The gradient was so steep it was difficult enough to walk on, let alone ride up. This mattered little to the Colombian fans who had arrived in force to see if Nairo could extend his lead over the other GC contenders in this nail-bitingly close Giro finale.
On the way to the final spot we came across a Fiat 500 all painted up in Bahrain Merida livery. We stopped to get some photos, before the owner came over and I asked if I could get in. It was so small inside I had to stick my head out the window to avoid putting a hole in his roof!
Learning from yesterday's mistakes we parked right at the bottom of the final climb, watching the stampa stampede right past us. I was surprised none of the other photogs stopped, as I knew from our reccy that the best spots were down here. The top was all treed-in. Advantage me.
The final climb of stage 20 was comprised of, appropriately, 20 switchbacks. Accordingly, there were so many vantage points to see the riders approaching that it took a while, and lots of walking, before settling on the 5th switchback.
Wanting to get something a little special for the last climb of the Giro, I went to work climbing the mesh up a sheer cliff, until I had an overhead view of the road. Onlookers seemed a little puzzled as I hung, clinging to the wire like a bearded orangutan, for the next 15 minutes.
After the last riders had disappeared up the climb we hiked it back to the car. Our last drive was an unsettlingly long haul of 275 km to Milano. I used two leftover grissini sticks to prop Stuntman Mike's eyes open as we hit 5200 km driven in 3 weeks.