I won’t lie. I went to Giro di Lombardia to work, but also with the excitement as a small child going to see the fair for the first time. OK, maybe these days the small child would be off to see the new Apple store/monstrosity (delete as applicable to your sensibilities).
It has long been a race I wanted to see. To feel. Alongside, or perhaps just behind, Paris-Roubaix, slightly ahead of Milan-Sanremo and Tro-Bro Léon. But the specific reason is more difficult to pinpoint. I have never absorbed myself in the vast history of the race; I don’t know the course changes in their minutiae, nor the race winners by year. It could be that it is the first race the World’s jersey is generally worn at by the new ‘owner’ – a bright flash of white and rainbow colours in the marvelous colours of the falling leaves of autumnal northern Italy.
I think though, it was more about the feel. That something indescribable, something Italian, about it. It’s a bit like that girl at school, a few years ahead of you. You know nothing about her, but she is alluring and captivates you from afar.
I won’t lie. I went to the Giro di Lombardia wanting Purito to win. Again. As a rule, though not always, I don’t care much for who wins a race and as a photographer, the events around the race and the win are often more interesting. But, the racing fan in me had a vague sense of wanting a Purito win.
Yet, this aforementioned work, was with a sponsor of Team Garmin Sharp and all the access that that begets. And I had just read two recent interviews with Dan Martin in two separate, excellent, Spanish cycling magazines – Pedalier and Volata – so somehow felt a little attached to the guy. The manner in which he has adopted Girona as home, not just a temporary place to live, but home, I could very much relate. His way of approaching life and racing I got as well – ok, I don’t really race, but if you see what I mean. But it was secondhand, albeit through two very good pieces in those very good reads.
However, I had ridden with, and spent a little time in conversations, with Purito’s lieutenant, Alberto Losada and grown to have an affection for them both through that. I have friends who are friends with them too. So, Purito, through Losada, albeit as contrived as it may seem, was where the race fan in me was sitting. I was, however, leaning towards being happy with a Dan Martin win, should it happen.
I won’t lie. I left the Giro di Lombardia having had one of the happiest cycling experiences I have had. It was all I had hoped. I had a ride which joined the last half of the race route, on race day, finished on the finishing straight 90 minutes before the real race and then photographed the winning team and shared in their celebrations with a glass (plastic cup) of Prosecco from Dan Martin.
The day after, I rode a hybrid of the first half of the race, from Como and included some of the famous aspects of the race from this year and years gone by. Included in that were the torture of The Muro di Sormano and the moving Madonna del Ghisallo. The latter of the two was a far more spiritual experience than I was prepared for. I got quite emotional and the sight of Fabio Casartelli’s bike in the church, with it’s buckled fork, was too much to photograph. I just stared.
So, as with most of my best cycling experiences, it wasn’t about the racing, per se, but about the experience as a whole.
I won’t lie. I left the Giro di Lombardia happy that Dan Martin and Garmin won. Nothing against Purito and Alberto Losada. Nothing at all.
I was lucky to be at the bus photographing the winning team. Lucky I was there, and lucky they won. As I hung around and got to chat to the team – probably when I should have been working more – I found a bunch of guys who were just a bunch of guys doing a job and having fun doing it. And an interesting, fun, diverse bunch of guys. The winner on the day, the affable Dan Martin, a languid and jovial Ryder Hesjedal, though visibly knackered from his massive effort in pulling back the break away to allow Martin to make his decisive attack, struggling up and down the steps of the bus, until the prosecco came out.
The effortless cool of Thomas Dekker and the fascinating cool of Lachlan Morton, the latter to whom chatting about his documentary and cycling adventures with his brother (thereabouts.com.au) and Australia in general was something that caused me to nearly miss the “champagne(prosecco!) shot” outside the bus. Thereabouts #2 is due in 2015.
I won’t lie. I went to the fair and won a goldfish and it lives on to this day. (To the Apple crowd, I went to the store and somehow came away with an iPadAirMiniPhoneMac 9 for which I can now look for a case).
And Giro di Lombardia, unlike the older girl at school, I love you more than ever now I have got to know you more.