What's Cool In Road Cycling

Roadside PEZ: The Adriatico Chase 2017

Roadside PEZ Tirreno-Adriatico Stage 5: It wouldn’t be right to let Tirreno-Adriatico pass the doorstep of the Italian champion of ‘Race Chasing’, Ale Federico, without his view of the spring stage race. Ale took a leisurely look at stage 5 as a build-up to Saturday’s Milan-Sanremo where he (as always) will be roadside.

Nairo Quintana 3 km from the finish

The crowd scream and the motos are speeding fast beside me. Nairo Quintana has just attacked and he is clearly visible now in his blue jersey of the Tirreno Adriatico leader. When Nairo passes I believe he will easily win the stage, he has some meters on the chasers and yesterday he already showed how strong he is. I thought I would be watching Sagan or Van Avermaet passing first at the top of this steep road, but the Colombian wanted once more to show who is the boss. After a few minutes came the info; Sagan won and, if I’m not wrong, this is the first race I watched in person where Sagan wins!

Strada Reputolo, makes its way from the countryside and finishes in the outer part of the town

It’s a warm spring day in central Italy and I move south to Fermo to watch a stage of Tirreno Adriatico. This race comes quite close to my house and from Fano (my town) to Fermo is just an hour drive. The forecast is for the best weather and I park the car close to the top of the road where I decided to watch the race. This is the stage 5 of this competition that yesterday saw Nairo Quintana winning the queen stage and taking the leaders jersey. Fermo is one of those medieval towns you find in the center of Italy, it sits on a hill (they built towns on hills to protect them from any incursions) and so there are several roads climbing this hill to reach the town center. RCS, the Tirreno Adriatico organizers, have chosen the steepest road for the race and they decided to climb it twice, after a loop around the town with other steep climbs to overcome.

At the top of the town there’s a stunning view of the Adriatic sea

The center of town is very elegant

The name of this very steep road is “Strada Reputolo”, overall it doesn’t look anything special because it is very short – just 600 meters – but the last 300 meters will really give you vertigo. This is a transversal road climbing the hill and landing on the side of the new part of town, surrounded by buildings of the hinterland. The historic town is not far away and I decide to take a look at it and also to watch last kilometer of the race, which twists in the narrow medieval stone roads. It’s a perfect final for a horse race, one of those recalling the ancient times, it’s very strange to watch a cycle race through such a part of the town, but also very attractive. I continue to walk till the top of the hill where an old church is watching all around. The vista there is stunning. You can see from the Adriatic sea to the Apennines, still covered by the snow.

Another panoramic view of Fermo and its old town surrounded by walls

Back to via Reputolo; it is still early for the race so I walk down into the valley to look for a good place where I can shoot the group. Especially for the first passage I believe that it will be some kind of “gruppo compatto” and I would like to try a scenic picture, something giving the idea of the slope. As cycling photographer, I know very well it’s very difficult to give the idea of a climb. You only have a chance to give to the viewer some reference. If you shoot just the rider, no matter how steep the climb it’ll give the impression he is climbing a standard road. So, wondering about this I go to the other side of the valley. The sun now is warm and there are many flowers blossoming. It’s a great spring day. I sit to eat my lunch and I see on the other side the climb. From here it’s impressive and it really gives the idea that it’s a vertical ladder. Yes, it’s a great place. The only problem is that I’m very far and I will not see anything of the race. No matter, I care more about this picture.

Kwiaktowski descending fast in an aerodynamic position

From the other side of the hill Strada Reputolo shows how step it is. Plenty of people are watching the race

Luckily the race comes close to me descending the hill and then climb it from the other side. So that when the race comes I can see the first group with Kwiaktowski riding in front in a very dynamic position. The first group is reduced to few units, maybe 40 riders, no more. I join my strategic point and I prepare the camera. On the valley below the race cars start to pass, the motos, then comes the helicopter and here we go, gruppo compatto and approaching Strada Reputolo very slowly, with a bit of respect – even pro riders have respect of climbs… I think. The bunch slowly climbs the road and comes to the last 300 meters surrounded by several people now waiting and screaming so loud that I can hear them from the other side of the valley! It’s one of the most exciting experiences you can have. Watching the race from afar.

Look at the slope which is clearly visible if you compare the road and the flat of the building

The World champ and stage winner, Peter Sagan

For the second decisive passage I decide to join the normal people and to watch from the roadside. Pez asks for a roadside story, not for a coast to coast one! While I wait I meet with Michele, one cool guy, with whom I did a Tirreno Adriatico preview few years ago. Confused in the crowd it’s him who spots me: we were in touch with messages, but I had some difficulties in finding him. I’m exhausted and sweaty after the double climb from one side to the other. Michele is a blogger and his creation is one of the most interesting you can read if you look for a genuine, simple approach to cycling. Not a coverage of pro races but focusing on climbs of the Marche region in Italy; perfect for those who want to climb and taste the roads of our region.

Ex-World champion Rui Costa

When the race comes for the final passage, the sun is at sunset and the shadows are very long on the road. I sit on top of the Reputolo and I wait for Quintana. Just a short thought to the fact that next week I will be chasing Sanremo with much less calm, much more stress and emotion but, at the end, I will think again how good was the calm day at Tirreno and why spoil my day at Sanremo with a self inducted pressure. But this is what it means to follow a Classic, in fact whatever we’ve seen till now – regardless that we have seen some great cycling – they were great cycling races, but not Classics. A Monument goes beyond the race and involves the legend and the history. In Milan, next Saturday morning, riders as well as spectator will have the pulse higher and higher. But this, is another story.

a group of distanced riders climbing Reputolo

My good friend and blogger Michele watching “his race”

# You can see more of Ale’s photos on his Instagram page HERE. #

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