Giro d’ Italia on the Stelvio

Sometimes I work to get to bicycle races.  This is a benefit of my primary income earning job as an cabin crew worker of a major international airline carrier.  I seek out trips that get me to close proximity to the big European races such as the Volta Catalunya in March or in May the Giro d’ Italia.  From Venice I’ve made it to a couple of finishes in nearby towns, but this year I flew into Milan to see the Queen Stage, the double climb of the famous Passo del Stelvio.  The iconic 21km climb up the Stelvio has hosted dramatic days in the history of the Giro, sometimes due to late snows.  2017 served up a perfect sunny warm day and I was glad.  After landing at Malpensa International Airport around 8:30am, I rented a small volkswagen and drove three hours northeast of Milan to Bormio, stage 16’s finishing town.  The course took the riders up over the Mortirolo climb then up the valley through Bormio, up the Stelvio, down into Switzerland, back up the Stelvio, then finally down into Bormio for over a staggering 5,000 meters of climbing.  My goal was to get up on the Stelvio where I could look down at all the switchbacks and capture some nice photos of the race.  I was able to drive just a couple kilometers past the finish line where I would have to park then go the rest of the way on foot.  I set off at a quick pace to make it up the climb in time as I had a bit less than two hours before the predicted time the riders would pass by on their way up.  I walked over 13 kilometers up enjoying the views and throngs of others cycling fans making their way up the mountain, mostly by bicycle.  I scouted around a few spots and after talking to a credentialed photographer settled on a particular hairpin turn with a spectacular view.  Later after scanning through my photos I discovered the place I should have been for the pink jersey group, but nonetheless couldn’t be too disappointed with what photos I took.  I debated about whether to stay high on the mountain for when the race descended towards the finish or to work my way down closer to Bormio.  I settled on the latter and made it close to 5 or 6 K to go and first saw Bahrain-Merida’s Vincenzo Nibali and Team Sky’s Mikael Landa streak by followed a little bit later by Movistar’s Nairo Quintana and a few others.  I glanced at my watch to see how far behind Sunweb and Pink Jersey wearer Tom Dumoulin was and concluded the 2 minute gap would allow him to hold on to the leader’s jersey.  Little did I know at the time where and why he conceded time which is a whole other story.  I meandered the rest of the way back to my rental car, then sat in traffic and finally arrived in Milan at the layover hotel after 11pm.  It was a long day, but well worth it.

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