RECALLING STRADE BIANCHE
In March of 2011, peloton photographer Michael Crook was in Italy shooting Strade Bianche for, at the time, Team Type 1.

ACCORDING TO MICHAEL
I had just come over from the coast to shoot for the team and was fortunate to get on a moto. I had studied the course a bit in order to prepare myself for what was ahead. I knew it would be a tough go, but I had a map, I knew the sections and I am always up for this kind of adventure. What I didn’t prepare myself for was how crazy the moto driver was. The night before the race, we went for a motorcycle ride throughout Siena to get familiar with the area. On the way back we stopped at a bar and he drank a bunch of wine pretty quickly. He kept saying “Things are fine. No problem.” But I never really felt safe with him and this was the night before!

The next morning we saddled up. I think this was his first time driving in a race as rough and as technical as this one. At one point he was driving way too slow up a hill and got too close to the riders and we got stuck in some loose, white gravel. I reacted instantly and jumped off just before the big, heavy BMW moto toppled over. I still don’t remember how we got the bike upright again. It was crazy. I was pretty pissed at him from then on, but we had to get through the race. He barely spoke any English and I don’t speak much Italian, but I remember yelling at him “No bene. No bene” and “Pazzo. Pazzo”. Despite all this craziness, it didn’t affect the way I shot the race. I told him what to do and when he did dangerous stuff, I would just yell at him. This is how it went throughout the whole race, section after section. What’s funny is that we worked together many times after that including Milan-San Remo. Again, he didn’t some crazy stuff there like going up and over the Poggio when he wasn’t supposed to. He would always get us in trouble, but somehow we made it out, over and over, and over again.

The Strade Bianche finish was awesome. I remember roaring into the Piazza really fast. The tiny streets were jammed with people and we didn’t have much time because the riders were just minutes behind us. I had no time to prepare. I just jumped off the bike, smiled at the other photographers, and started shooting because Philippe Gilbert came into the piazza with Allesandro Ballan not far behind him. There were so many people everywhere around the finish just yelling and clanging cowbells. It was fast and furious!

For me, I think as far as beautiful, epic races go, it is at the top of my list. It was exhilarating and fun, fast, frustrating and very unpredictable, but I live for this type of excitement and the scenery was unbelievable.

[youtube width=”560" height=”315" video_id=”cgpcxulbHKE”]
Check out the final kilometer of the 2011 Strade Bianche. Looks like Gilbert won it in that final, quick turn. You’ll see it.

2011 RESULTS (118 miles)
1. Philippe Gilbert
2. Allesandro Ballan
3. Damiano Cunego

PAST WINNERS
2007 Alexandr Kolobnev (RUS), Team CSC
2008 Fabian Cancellara (SUI), Team CSC
2009 Thomas Lövkvist (SWE), Team Columbia-High Road
2010 Maxim Iglinsky (KAZ), Astana
2011 Philippe Gilbert (BEL), Omega Pharma-Lotto
2012 Fabian Cancellara (SUI), RadioShack-Nissan
2013 Moreno Moser (ITA), Cannondale Pro Cycling
2014 Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) Omega Pharma-Quick-Step
2015 Zdenek Stybar (CZE) Etixx-Quick-Step
2016 Fabian Cancellara (SUI) Trek-Segafredo

 

Follow Michael Crook on Instagram: @michaelcrook1 or visit her website at michaelcrook.com