Strade Bianche is a fascinating race. Glorious countryside, allure of the white roads, brutal steep gravel climbs and nasty spring weather assure plenty of drama. The finish line in Siena is always electric with anticipation. The very first Women’s World Tour race of the season didn’t disappoint.
My days on site with Wiggle High5 started last Wednesday. I picked up one of the riders at the airport, then drove down to Siena in the evening. Thursday morning began the team’s official course recon. I followed the team by car, filming where possible. The narrow roads made it challenging to stay ahead of the riders. After stopping to film the team riding past, it was another long while before I could safely get back in front of them again.
Not coming away with the best ride footage, I tried to focus on filming sponsor material. Muc-Off seemed like an appropriate sponsor to focus on. The gravel roads kicked up so much dirt, that bikes and cars were completely coated with dust after training. Thursday evening I made a little edit of Tim, our mechanic, cleaning the bikes. I joked with the guys that it turned out to be a slow motion bike washing porn movie.. that was a good laugh together.
— Wiggle High5 (@WiggleHigh5) March 2, 2017
On Friday the atmosphere was beginning to get more serious. The team did another training ride and I again followed in the car. The goal was specifically to check out gravel sector 5, the longest one at 9.5 km. All the men’s teams had arrived the night before and were out training at the same time. At one point I had Wiggle High5 in front of me, the whole Orica-Scott team on my bumper and the AG2R team passing me on the left.
Gravel sector 5 is long and gnarly. There are old broken cobbles poking through the dirt, just waiting to hand out punctures. The road is full of little ridges that vibrate your bike handlebars and car suspenion. The top offered stunning views and an excellent spot to film on raceday. A lot of drama would go down on this sector.
Later in the evening I did a short interview with Elisa and wanted to put out a preview/teaser video of sorts. Technically I wasn’t super happy with my interview footage, it was dark and hard to find a quiet place to interview. I used an empty restaurant which resulted in echoey audio. But I loved Elisa’s answers.
When I asked her if she could describe what it feels like to ride up that final steep wall into Siena with the crowd going crazy she said, “…what I feel it’s that you’re riding through history. And you breathe history and you breathe art and you breathe culture. It’s a strange and amazing feeling.”
Race day! Our alarm went off at 5:45am. The team parking area in Siena was quickly busy with final race preparations by riders and mechanics. Before I knew it, the team was at sign on. Soon after we headed out onto the course. I was in the car with Bart and Anton for the day. Bart is the photographer (among other important things) for Wiggle High5, Anton for WM3.
We first went to the 30km point. Not a visually interesting location for filming, but easy logistically for us to get to the all-important gravel sector 5 afterwards. It was lucky for filming that all of Wiggle High5 were on the front right at that moment. After they passed I ran down the hill and we all jumped back into the car to head to the top of the longest gravel sector. We had to be quite quick to make it to the bottom of the gravel road before it was closed to car traffic.
After parking, I ran across a field to put myself in the best position to see the riders multiple times. From my spot I was able to see the peloton descending the hill in the distance, passing right in front of me, then going up the hill behind me.
Once the shattered peloton and convoy passed, we raced back to the finish line in Siena. We watched the last few kms on the big screen that was set up in Piazza del Campo. As all the photographers got in place at the finish line, we were crossing our fingers so hard for Elisa. Hopes were momentarily flattened when Shara Gillow and Lucinda Brand pulled ahead. But then Elisa gave her monster attack on the steepest part of the course and we know now.. the rest is history. A glorious win for Elisa and the whole Wiggle High5 team.
After the finish it was a whirlwind of cameras and flashes and raw emotions and congratulations. It was tough to get decent shots among all the media pushing and shoving, but the frenzied nature of my footage seemed to portray perfectly the scrum of media and celebration at the back of the finish line. The podium celebration was joyous and I got a good shower of champagne from Elisa.
In planning the shot list, I knew it would be crucial to get footage from both the final climb into Siena, and the finish line. My husband was there, set up on the wall to grab that footage, while I was at the finish line. This 13 second phone clip added so much more drama to the race video. I was so grateful that he was there with me. Both were amazing moments of the race and the final video.
I was completely unaware of Elisa’s crash and subsequent bike changes until I got back to the team bus and interviewed Claudia Lichtenberg. This interview made for an extra epic storyline to the already amazing victory of the day.
Finally I headed back to the hotel around 4pm to start editing. I parked myself on the couch in the hotel lobby and edited for the next 4 hours. Breaking every Italian rule, I had a cappuccino at 4:30pm to stay focused and awake. I had the biggest grin on my face while editing and stopped to share little clips with the DS and Rochelle who were still in the lobby. Editing and uploading was done by 8:30pm, and I got home at midnight.
Here is the final video. It’s a video which I hope portrays how vital and focused each person on the team is, and one that honors the incredible victory by Elisa.