Having driven so far the previous evening it was less than an hour to where we wanted to watch stage 6 from. We passed very close by to San Marino – we could see the city itself perched on it’s hillside just to the north. Going in error to the centre of the town of Carpegna we were very nicely asked to turn around by a local cop.
Eventually on the race route we only got to the base of the real climb where we were stopped by a barrier – they’re not letting any vehicles up the best part! There were several campervans already parked on the wide verge but it felt a bit soft to us so we followed the other small road down a short distance – driving over a large patch of solid ice on the way – it’s still very cold up here.
We parked on the side of the road behind three other campervans and had another cup of tea. I took a couple of short walks – it’s another very beautiful area. At the foot of the steep part of the climb are several homages to Marco Pantani – he didn’t grow up in Carpegna, but he trained on the climb many times.
A farmer across the road has put up a ‘parking’ sign and over the next few hours his field became packed – at least sixty or more vehicles so I hope he has a good day.
We watched as hundreds of people trecked up the road towards the top – seeing so many fans making the effort was great. Around 2:45 we grabbed our lawn chairs and cameras and made our own trek, although not to the top. We stopped just after the barrier as it’s the first of 22 hairpins and the riders should slow at least a bit as they go by.
A breakaway of five, including Alaphilippe arrived at 3:17…
…and the peloton arrived just a minute later with Pogacar in blue right near the front.
The sprinters arrived in a large bunch only eight minutes later, then I decided to cross the road to shoot the second time around.
A half hour after the first arrival they made their second pass – this time a slightly larger breakaway, including, of course, Pogacar.
It took over twenty minutes for the last rider to pass us, and one of them dropped his chain rounding the corner – he was not happy! Luckily he managed to get it back on, and with a push from a spectator got back going up the hill.
I must say a word about some of the ‘fans’ – I find many of them very disrespectful. The riders are on the last few miles of a very long race, and the hundreds of spectators that had taken the time and energy to walk to the top of the climb were coming down in droves as the later riders were still coming up.
At one point the people walking down were taking up the entire road as riders were trying to dodge between them. I shouted and swore a couple of times at the f’ing idiots, especially when they walked right in front of me when I was trying to get a shot. I’ve now been to dozens and dozens of races, and can hardly remember a time when I haven’t stayed where I was and clapped and cheered until the very last rider had passed – just wish more people showed more respect.
Back at the campervan we had a little surprise, and I couldn’t stop laughing. Henry had managed to drag the garbage bag out of it’s door-side container and had strewn the contents all over the floor – he’d chewed the crap out of the lid and yanked it off, then grabbed the bag and pulled until it came up and out. And we had no doubt it was Henry and not Mo that did it, although she may have egged him on from her perch on the bench.
We made the drive back to Papiano in time to shower and head down to the bar where Antonio was having another festa. John and Janet were just about to leave but we did have a quick chat. Then we went inside for one drink while talking with Afka and Janpietro before getting our pork-in-a-bun to take home.