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Best images of 2020: Strade Bianche

Photographer James Startt recalls shooting the bright colors of the bunch against the dust and dirt of the Tuscan fields.

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While the 2020 season was a complicated one due to the coronavirus crisis, it did offer some unexpected surprises.

Starting the season reboot with the Strade Bianche on August 1st was a most pleasant surprise. I had longed to cover this epic race in Italy, but as I always cover Paris-Nice in March, the scheduling of both was virtually impossible. But as soon as the UCI announced the new calendar, I knew I would be in Italy in August. And I was not disappointed.

It is hard to imagine a better host town for a bicycle race than historic Siena, and it is hard to imagine a better venue than the sculpted landscape of this part of Tuscany.

As I have never been to the race in March, I had never witnessed the sometimes-brutal weather conditions that often play a role in the race. But the heat and dust found in the heart of Italian summer offered challenges all their own.

It was never more so the case than illustrated by this image of the peloton crossing through sector three. Turning abruptly off of the main road, the pack quickly strung out as it skirted along the ridge. And with the recently-harvested fields barren, the riders were completely exposed to the sun, the heat, and the dust, as they approached the mid-way point in this race.

Looking back over my images from the day, it is hard to pick just one image that stands out, as the unique nature of this race is nothing short of a photographer’s dream. But in the end, this is the image that sums up best my experiences there this year. And when I think back on the day I still see the bright colors of the peloton against the dust and the stark monochromatic background found there.

For myself at least, this is where the magic happened.