11/07/19

Giro d’Italia 2019

Words: Joe Harper

Images: Joe Harper

Photographer and Cyclist Joe Harper, together with a few friends decided to ride from Nice (France) to Como (Italy). Taking five solid days of riding, they would along the way bump into segments of the Giro d’Italia 2019. The Grand Tour in its 102nd edition is a cycling stage race that winds its way between Bologna and and Modena. Pausing their ride to cheer from small Italian street corners and classic Italian vistas, with both excitement for the race and an understanding of how the road feels for the riders as they headed towards Como.

On the fourth day, Joe and his contingent plotted out a route that would incorporate almost 80km of the Giro stage. That day and amongst riding between the caravans, cars  and dodging over enthusiastic volunteers, they managed to follow the pink flags and balloons that signed the Giro’s route.

After a final and very wet day arriving into Como, our crew watched the Giro riders pass through the morning, the sun had come out in blistering form which made it a tough morning for competitor and spectator alike. Luckily the house we had booked was situated on the very corner of a sharp descent around Como’s picturesque roads, we had an incredible view and the comfort of our accomodation. The last riders flew around the corner and we raced back inside to see Dario Cataldo crowned on TV. We were streaming three seperate versions of Eurosport in French, English and Italian just to get all the action and angles.

We followed as the Giro left the Como area and proceeded to their rest day. Capitalising on this we had a rest day of our own in Bormio with local alpine food and hotel massages. Little did we know this was really helpful leading into the next few days.

For the final stage we’d see on our excursion, we set out to drive up to the Mortirolo Pass managing to weave our way up and park 3km from the top of the climb. The peloton wasn’t due for a good three or four hours. We were eager to see the finish line so we rode the hill climb of the final segment. Even the last 3km of the 12.4km, 1300meter ascent was telling of how brutal the entire climb would be for approaching riders.

Still sweaty from that climb, we changed back into casual clothing, I grabbed my cameras and made my way to the summit again – this time on foot. Climbing past excited fans and campsites of people who had claimed their spots the day before. I emerged from the forest and into an opening just as it started to rain, this rain became an extensive torrential downpour engulfed by massive passing clouds. It reduced visibility to nil. My clothing, gear and backpack were completely soaked. An Italian man took pity on me after an hour of waiting and held his umbrella out so as to shield me a small amount from the relentless deluge.

By the time the riders started appearing on the climb I was shaking from the cold and wet, barely able to see through the viewfinder to compose an image or read the light-meter.

As the final few riders passed by, I decided to make my way down, dodging between spectators again, still soaked and still with camera in hand, I would pause to shoot a few frames when I saw a rider begrudgingly climbing the Mortirolo in this weather.

Back in the forested area, the mood began to lighten, maybe from complete acceptance of being back of the pack or from the trees shielding us from the rain but the riders now were cheery and smiling as the now drunken crowd I’d passed earlier was pushing each rider up the climb and cheering/chatting on the way.

I jumped back in the van, laid out my wet clothes and turned every heater on – fully appreciating the Mercedes heated seats!

It took three days for my backpack to dry out…