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Giro d'Italia

Getting the shot: Vincenzo Nibali, the peloton, and the hills of Basilicata in the Giro d’Italia

Since the start of this year’s Giro d'Italia, I have been waiting for this stage to Matera.

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I’ve said it before and I will say it again: Photography is like bike racing in that so much of the time you are reacting to a situation rather than dictating it. Cyclists can have the perfect placing going into a race, only to see it thrown upside down by unexpected events — an attack from a rival team, a crash, you name it. And photography is much the same.

Today was another case in point. Since the start of this year’s Giro d’Italia, I have been waiting for this stage to Matera. I looked forward to it, just as I did for the stage finish to the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento on stage two, or Mount Etna on stage three. Matera is considered to be the world’s oldest continually inhabited town and is a UNESCO jewel. I had images of the peloton racing into this timeless town, surrounded by spellbinding architecture.

But it was not to be. Today’s finish in fact was well outside of the city’s historic center and as I arrived, I quickly understood there would be little chance for history in my frame today. There was nothing distinctive about the finish in my eyes so I started walking down the course. Finally, at the two-kilometer mark, I was struck by the dramatic backdrop and could just imagine how the riders would crest this final climb with the hills of the Basilicata region behind.

My only challenge was the sunlight, which was quickly fading as the race approached.

As I watched as the advance vehicles hit the summit of this climb, I could see just where they came into the light. The pack was not far behind, and as soon as the first rider crested, I started firing off. There was no time to pick out riders really, but fortunately, Vincenzo Nibali was near the front and easy to spot. And just as fortunately I managed to catch him as he came into the light.