The Shot: Bushwhacking at the Giro


Editor’s note: In “The Shot,” BrakeThrough Media photographers Iri Greco and Jim Fryer will pick their favorite photo from select races throughout this season and provide the background story on how the image was captured.

2016 Giro d’Italia, stage 4, Catanzaro – Praia a Mare, 200km

After the Giro’s “Grande Partenza” in Gelderland (Holland), we had a long transfer to the toe of Italy where stage 4 began in Catanzaro and then proceeded upward along the Calabrian coastline to finish in Praia a Mare.

One of our goals was to showcase the race with the sea in the background, which was not an easy task since much of the coastal road was lined with shrubby trees or buildings. We managed one decent coastal shot at around 60km, but the best seaside features were decidedly closer to the finish town. And with this being the first “Italian” stage finish we wanted to capitalize on the final kilometers.

The final run-in to the finish in Praia a Mare ran parallel to the seaside, but before that, the peloton was to ascend a steep pitch of 18 percent on the Via del Fortino, just 10.5 kilometers from the line. As we drove into the town we could see the climb, its sheer steepness and how it looked out over the finish area and the seaside. Perfect!

We parked the car behind the zone technique (TV compound) and Jim headed for the finish line to secure a decent spot while I checked the map to navigate to the Via del Fortino. It was only 600 meters away, just on the other side of the train tracks. I still had at least 25-30 minutes before the lead car would arrive … plenty of time, no stress.

And then, it all backfired. First, I walked one direction, according to the GPS, and it turned into a dead-end street. Then I tried the other direction, and it was an overgrown alley of grass between some houses. Clearly not a street. So I backtracked, thinking I missed the initial street that would cut across the train tracks to get to the course. No luck there again as all the “streets” ended in gates and driveways. By then I had lost 10 minutes or more and was starting to panic that I would miss the climb altogether. The worst part was that I could even spot the fan-lined ascent from where I was; I just couldn’t seem to get there. I then headed back again in the direction of the infamous yet elusive cut-through and found myself behind a row of half-built, abandoned apartment buildings.

I stopped — flustered, frustrated, and sweaty — to give myself a minute to compose my thoughts; should I just bee-line it for the finish area, or was there some other way to get across the tracks without taking the two-kilometer loop around town? As I stood there thinking, I again noticed this grassy, overgrown alley — now on the other side of a low cement wall. I peeked over and spied that it went under the railroad tracks by way of a kind of water drainage path. I jumped over the wall with my cameras and through the tall grasses to duck under the railroad overpass (it was probably only five feet high) and came out on the other side. I was finally on the arrival side of the course at the foot of Via del Fortino, and the lead car was barreling toward it.

I ran up the 18-percent grade to the first corner and barely had time for a test shot before I could see the break below me. Several photographers ran up just seconds before the racers (clearly also misjudging how “easy” it appeared to get there from the finish zone), and we got the shot. Diego Ulissi made his move in that corner with the sea behind him and managed to ride free and clear to the line, classic Giro style.

Key image specs:
Canon 1DX
Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS
Focal Length: 75mm
1/640 sec @ f/3.2 ISO 100
File format: RAW