Stage 16 of the 2007 Giro had all the emotional grittiness of an epic mountain stage, but at the same time, it wasn't the pain, the cold, or even the elevation gain that caught my eye. Instead it was the photos posted at cyclingnews.com.
In the summer of 1997, the pages of Cycle Sport were filled with beautiful images from the Grand Tours, highlighting all of the season's racing action. It was the first year that I began to devour every photo and piece of text I could get my hands on, and there were some impressive riders in the peloton (doped or not). The photos seemed to come alive: the riders were three dimensional, tan, covered in sweat, blood, and pain as they fought their way to victory. Instead of wide shots with multiple riders, there were more close-ups and photos that featured one rider exposing all of the great detail. There was also a yellowish hue to the photos, especially the shots taken in the extreme peak summer heat. Maybe the difference is digital vs film and magazine vs web. But today's Cycle Sport photos mimic those of the Web (often when my Cycle Sport subscription arrives I have already seen the images online).
This past Tuesday's stage coverage of the Giro was a throwback to the great photography I used to see. Even though the imagery lacked the yellowish hue of the old days, the photos of Garzelli leaped off the screen, in the same way the images of old did. Garzelli rode like a true champion, and his battle for the stage win was captured in a simple, beautiful way. There were the wide-angled vantage points that captured the pain of the chasing groups, but there were also beautiful shots of Garzelli alone, up-close and in great detail, the weather and terrain provided the idyllic backdrop to give the images depth and dynamism, complete with the omnipresent texture and grittiness that makes for an epic stage.
For a moment, it was easy to look past the scandal that plagued the month of May, and come face-to-face with the pure essence that draws all of us into this sport we love.