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Giro d'Italia

Getting the shot: Egan Bernal after Giro d’Italia victory

On the scene for the conclusion of the Giro d'Italia, photojournalist James Startt captured a moment of subtle emotion from the winner of the maglia rosa.

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As is often the case with photography, it is sometimes your most unexpected shots that resonate the most, and today’s final stage in the 2021 Giro d’Italia is once again a case in point. With the finish of the final time trial on the Piazza del Duomo in the heart of Milano, I had visions of getting Egan Bernal crossing the finish line with his maglia rosa, underneath the stunning gothic cathedral that is the Duomo.

For much of the day, I worked around the finish line to find the best angle. As Bernal made the final turn on the 30-kilometer time trial, he knew that victory was his and he had plenty of time to celebrate before even crossing the finish line. As a result, by the time he passed me — several meters after the line — he was already dropping his arms and there was little emotion.

Running after him were several photographers; I was not the first to arrive on the scene when he finally stopped in front of his team soigneur and started celebrating with his teammates. So by the time I arrived, I was behind him.

But, suddenly, he turned around and began making his way towards the podium. The late afternoon sun was hitting me hard and Bernal himself was quite backlit. I had no idea what I was getting, but I just kept shooting, moving slowly with him.

As I started editing my images, I was drawn to the series from which this shot came. The images were far from perfect as the sun’s reflections on my old Nikon 20mm lens produced strange effects. And yet, somehow, it worked with Bernal’s expression, a pensive one. Perhaps the drama of the previous three weeks was just starting to register with him. It’s just a guess, really, but despite the incredible backdrop of the Duomo, and despite the celebratory mood here in the heart of Milano at the end of this year’s Giro, this is the image that resonates the most at the end of the day.