IN PICTURES: IL LOMBARDIA
Photographer Kristof Ramon sent us this photo essay from arguably the most beautiful cycling race in the world
I’d photographed Il Lombardia once before but that was while travelling in a car. This time, from a moto, I had a lot more latitude to explore this beguiling race.
Things risked being overshadowed by a dangerous corner where Jan Bakelants crashed very badly. It was the worst crash I’ve seen as a photographer. He went over a high barrier with a 4m drop on the other side, then Laurens De Plus spun over the rails on the same corner. Bad crashes present us with a dilemma: do we shoot and show the full graphic horror or do we allow the rider privacy in a vulnerable, possibly lifechanging situation? Early in my career, I often lowered my lens completely. But later, riders contacted me asking if I had pictures of the crash. I think when they’ve recovered they like to put the photos for personal reasons. So while I took some more graphic shots in that ravine, they’re staying with me. Instead, there’s the striking photo of Jan’s bike suspended in a tree. I think it shows well the gravity of what happened.
I also spent time on the magnificent Muro di Sormano. The road is so narrow the race caravan follows a deviation and meets the peloton at the top. It means the riders were alone with the passionate, excited fans on some grindingly steep slopes. The late Italian races have a special quality that’s difficult to identify. I’m not sure it’s a single factor but perhaps the light, the landscape and the atmosphere, that’s like a happy farewell to the season, all combine to give them their special, very photogenic character.
1. Bahrain-Merida’s Enrico Gasparotto is given a helping hand up the steep slopes of the Muro di Sormano 2. The six-rider breakaway pace themselves up the irst climb of the day, the Colle Gallo 3. Two-time Lombardia winner Philippe Gilbert showcases his rainbow stripes tattoo and Belgian champion’s socks 4. The infamous Sormano hits stinging gradients of 25 per cent 5. After an early breakaway was established at the start, a relaxed-looking peloton enjoys the warm autumn sunshine 6. The ‘Race of the falling leaves’ skirts towards the shores of Lake Como against a stunning backdrop 7. Animated Italian fans urge on the riders as they climb past 8. The surreal sight of Jan Bakelants’s bike dangling from a tree after he was propelled over a barrier into a ravine 9. As Il Lombardia is the inal monument of the season, riders leave everything they have out on the road 10. With 247km on the route, Pieter Serry begins to show signs of su fering as the race reaches its conclusion 11. Vincenzo Nibali arrives solo at the inish in Como, as he secures his second Lombardia win 12. Discarded champagne corks litter the podium as the post-race celebration gets into full swing