Pho­tog­ra­pher Kristof Ra­mon sent us this photo es­say from ar­guably the most beau­ti­ful cy­cling race in the world

Procycling - - Contents - Pho­tographed by KRISTOF RA­MON

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

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