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Sometimes picture-taking doesn’t quite work out the way you plan.
Stage 18 of this year’s Giro d’Italia, from Rovereto to Stradella, was a case in point. Looking at the roadbook in the morning I identified what appeared to be a long stretch of road along Lake Garda, in one of northern Italy’s magnificent lake districts. I could see a wonderful postcard shot of the peloton rolling alongside the clear waters of this lake on the edge of the Alps. But suddenly, when we arrived in Peschiera del Garda on the southern tip of the lake, I understood that there was a problem with the roadbook — or at least my reading of it — as we never actually rolled past the lake as I had imagined.
Resigned to make do with the finish line I drove straight to Stradella. Walking to the finish line, I saw little opportunity to avoid the classic finish-line shot. But then I saw a family above on their balcony. Could such a position allow for a more interesting angle? Motioning to them, I asked in my best Italian (which isn’t very good) if I could come up and photograph from their balcony. They graciously accepted my request.
There were numerous visual possibilities, first as the riders approached and then from behind as they crossed the finish line. I liked my options, and I liked the late afternoon sun. In addition, the balcony was perfectly placed across the street from the giant screen transmitting the live feed to the local fans in town.
For a while I, too, was a fan, watching in amazement as Alberto Bettiol dropped his breakaway companions one by one in the closing kilometers, orchestrating a brilliant solo win.
As Bettiol raced towards the finish, I shot him first as he came around the final turn into the sun. And then I turned and followed him as he approached the finish, capturing the final victory gesture after what will be a most memorable win. I liked both images instantly, but in the end, my shot from behind gets the nod today.
No, you cannot see the emotion on his face, but his gesture as he crosses the line in front of the line of photographers says a lot.