The Shot: Dumoulin’s delight at the Duomo

2017 100th edition Giro, stage 21, 29.3km time trial

The 100th Giro d’Italia finale was an individual time trial starting on the auto racing track in Monza. It navigated Milan’s outer environs, before reaching the pulsing heart of central Milano, the Piazza del Duomo. On any normal ITT, we aim to cover it from start to finish: showcasing the teams in warm-up mode, the fans, the start house backdrop, the aero action on the course — and if we can swing it — the arrival at the line with all its bittersweet sweat and tears and very rare moments of glory. However, this time trial would be different from the norm. The overall was too close to call. Four riders were within one minute of each other, a time trial specialist was poised to take back the jersey, plus there was that magnificent backdrop of the gothic cathedral.

We discussed several options for how best to shoot the TT, keeping in mind the usual chaos of entering a large city during the Giro. We knew imagery from the Milano finish would far surpass any from the autodrome start.

As expected, the finish and staging area was fairly challenging to navigate. We also had a sudden heat wave to contend with. The actual finish line in the piazza was lined with large paving stones. It got so hot, it felt as though you were sitting on a flattop grill. Bright sun reflected on the stone pavement, causing a lot of blow-out for good exposure. Capturing the whole Duomo in the shot with the riders coming through the line at high speed was not without obstacles. Luckily both Jim and I were on-site at the finish line. I was able to dedicate myself to the classic “Duomo shot” while he shot on the super telephoto.

We also had several hours to play around with slightly different angles, slow shutter exposures, low angle, before the top-20 riders came through. Of course, you also couldn’t predict what line they would take through the finish as some came too close and others too far, making the framing vary. I tried the 20-70mm which was solid but not perfect. A 15mm wide-angle was more distorted and dwarfed the riders and the cathedral. In the end, I managed a sufficient low angle that captured most of the Duomo, the finish line truss, fans’ arms hanging over the barriers, and a clear blue sky. Once or twice, a flurry of pigeons crossed the sky, but that would be pure luck if they took flight during the winner’s finish.

We were lucky enough to collaborate with other photographers who went to the start as well but we were most pleased with our final shots of the Giro coming to a close with an iconic shot of a historic moment.

Key image specs:

Canon 1DX
Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L IS II USM
1/1000 sec @ f/7.1 ISO 400
Focal Length: 24mm
File format: RAW