One of the best things I enjoy about cycling is all the good food you must eat in order to ride such long distances. I’m not talking about just any food, but healthy, tasty food the types loaded with proteins and good carbohydrates. Although my friends and I usually do smaller rides (80-100km) compared to professional riders, one must still fuel up properly. Such a ride can last over three hours and burn approximately 500-600 calories per hour, so you have to eat a lot!
This past May I had the great opportunity to combine my passions for food and cycling by photographing the 94th running of the Giro D’Italia. Simply known as The Giro, it is a long distance road bike stage race for professional cyclists held over three weeks in May, in and around Italy. It is considered the harder of the Grand Tours, the others being the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España. These three races make up the Triple Crown of pro cycling. This year’s race was a total of 3474 kilometres through the usual 21 stages. It was a bit special this year because it helped celebrate the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy as a country. Each stage passed through a significant point in Italian history and was symbolically recalling the path to a united Italy.
Unfortunately, the race will also be remembered for a not so celebratory incident, the death of the Belgian cyclist Wouter Weylandt. He crashed heavily during Stage 3 on the descent of the main climb, Passo del Bocco. His team withdrew from the race, and the organizers decided to permanently retire his number 108 in honour of him. At every stage there was some type of tribute to the fallen rider, be it his number or initials.
A great aspect of watching the race live is how close you can get to it, literally roadside! Below you can see some fans awaiting the arrival of the race during Stage 17. The riders are just finishing a 15km uphill Category 3 climb. (Category 3 climbs last approximately 5 kilometers (3.1 miles), have an average grade of 5 percent, and ascend 150 meters (500 feet).
I had the chance to ride the descent after the race, and believe me it was steep. This area is full of great ski resorts and on the way down I was hitting speeds over 60km/h without even pedalling! With so many technical turns and beautiful scenery, it was hard to keep my eyes on the road. The snow was also a little distracting, and made for some cold drafts. I could have used some newspapers stuffed under my jersey; an old school insulating tip.
One of the historic stages was the finish arrival of Stage 18 at San Pellegrino Terme, the Art Nouveau resort in the Brembana Valley. Best known for its waters and thermal springs, this town is also where legendary Grand Italian Champion Fausto Coppi won the Trento – San Pellegrino stage in 1955.
The city of Bergamo was the starting point for Stage 19 ending in Macugnaga 209km away. This area has produced many pink jerseys and winners in the past and was chosen as part of the 150th Unity celebration to remember the Bergamask people’s contribution to Giuseppe Garibaldi’s Expedition of the Thousand. Being at the start of a stage gives you a great view of how the riders prepare themselves for the long ride ahead of them. Mechanics are making final adjustments and tuning the equipment, team managers are giving interviews with the press and discussing strategies, while fans have the chance to meet their heroes up close.
One of my intentions for this story was to photograph fellow Torontonian Michael Barry for some Canadian press. Barry rides for Team Sky and has ridden in the past with US Postal during the 2004 season whilst riding in support of Lance Armstrong. He is usually the team leader for Canada in the World Championships, where his strengths lie in the time-trial, and hilly road races. I met up with him as he was preparing to leave for the Bergamo to Macugnaga stage which was 209km.
Pasta has always been a go-to fuel for athletes, especially cyclists. It’s low in fat and delivers quick energy in the form of easy-to-digest carbohydrates. It’s also best for refilling your tank postride and repairing sore muscles. So it’s no wonder that Delverde pasta is an official sponsor of one of the biggest Italian teams, the Liquigas-Cannondale cycling team.
The starting line at Bergamo
The Giro’s Final Stage 21 at The Duomo in Milan
The 2011 Giro d’Italia was called by some the hardest in years. Going into the final stage in Milan, 159 riders were lining up for the final act from a start list of 207. Finishing three weeks of racing in front of Milan’s Duomo marked the end of a beautiful, tragic, controversial Giro. Even the overall winner of the race, Alberto Contador, said it had been some of the hardest day’s of his racing career. With this Giro victory, Contador could become the first rider to take the Tours of Italy and France in the same year since the late Marco Pantani in 1998.
David Millar of Team Garmin-Cervélo won the 21st and final stage covering the distance of 26 kilometres in 30 minutes and 13 seconds.
Overall race winner for the second time in his career, Alberto Contador Velasco
A very special thank you to all those that made this possible; family, friends and the chefs, you know who you are!