With the course well and truly sorted (almost identical to yesterday’s circuit), I had a bit of time up my sleeve ahead of the stage 9 time trial, so I decided to build up my bike and ride up the closest hill. I hadn’t touched my bike in over a week and, well, let’s just say I didn't pick the easiest hill for my comeback ride.
The climb was called Monti Motti Bivio on Strava, and it was a doozy; 8.6km at 8.5%! My legs coped OK considering. I guess it was all the riding in Scotland the previous week that set me up for some time off. Still, it's amazing what a good ride can do and I felt refreshed and ready to go for the individual time trial that would decide the final result of the Tour de Suisse.
Everything must go
The course was only slightly different to the stage 8 circuit - but it was an important change. Fortunately, my drive to the start took in most of the course, otherwise I likely wouldn’t have scoped it out. It was at the far end, an old part of town that I hadn’t seen the day before - and full of cobblestone-clad, twisting, tiny streets. The light filtering between the buildings would be perfect to create some dynamic shots.
However, my first stop was the press room for the customary raid; doppio espresso, a bottle of frizzante and a couple of sandwiches. I loaded up my musette with loot and headed off on foot. The first riders had started warming up and the weather had returned to the sweltering sunshine of stage 1. As sweat started to glisten on my brow, I was overjoyed when the publicity caravan came past in last stage mode.
On earlier race stages (at most races), the publicity caravan can be a little stingy, especially if you are wearing a press bib. You yell and beg - and try to make connections - but they are generally more interested in showering tipsy spectators, rather than hard-working, Swiss franc-strapped media types. This makes the last stage something of a bonanza, as the press caravan adopts an ‘everything must go’ mentality, and starts distributing whatever they have left in wholesale quantities. Better still, there is no discrimination - if you are willing to abandon any sense of pride and jump up and down for it, and then muscle in to claim it, it’s yours. I suffer no such qualms and scored an entire box of frozen yoghurts. I then found a nice little spot on the cobbles and shared my frogurt stash with the other hungry photographers. We felt like kings.
Bridge of sides
After a couple of frogurts and another doppio I couldn’t sit still, so I went wandering the old town in a kind of caffeinated sugar coma, looking for interesting features to use in my shots. After the first 50 or so riders had passed, I decided to travel a little further afield for some variety. I had driven through what I thought was a tunnel on my way to the start - so I decided to head back and shoot there, with tunnels being a recurring theme of my Tour de Suisse adventure thus far.
Clearly I was in some kind of pre-caffeinated stupor on my way in, as it wasn’t a tunnel at all - but rather a bridge. This was good news as, not only would my therapist be able to put that down payment on a holiday house sooner than expected, but I would be able to shoot from above as well as from within. Still, the riders were coming through the ‘tunnel’ (or, bridge with sides) at such high speed it was difficult to get a sharp shot but, with persistence, I got some great ones.
So engrossed in the task at hand (and impending dementia) was I, that I almost failed to notice the race was down to the final 10 riders. The tunnel shot was too risky (the low % of sharp images meant the marquee players would likely be a blur), so I got my shuffle-run on back to the old town. The sun was beating down on the cobbles which, in turn, reflected back in the faces of the riders. None were more brightly illuminated than a luminescent Richie Porte in his ripe banana-yellow skinsuit.
As soon as he passed I had to get my shuffle-run on once more to make the final podium. It was a sedate affair other the the two rival gangs - the Sagans vs the Küngs. For once they seemed to put their differences aside, cheering equally as loudly for both riders. This may well have been helped by the fact that both Sagan and Küng made the podium. I was cheering on the inside for my man Richie Porte, who took out the race in emphatic fashion.
As with all stage races, there was a sense of relief in finishing my first Tour de Suisse. The Caravan wont stay parked for long, though, and I have plenty more stories to tell with the Tour de France just around the corner! Fingers crossed this won't be a last time we see Richie pull on a yellow jersey...
But, for now, I’m going to catch up on some riding by tackling some of the amazing Swiss roads that I’ve been documenting all week.
Bye for now, Beardy.