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June 5, 2011
Many of you know my good mate Veeral Patel. He’s been contributing his photography to this blog since the day it began and we’ve watched him progress throughout the years. Not long ago he couldn’t even get a break when applying for accreditation to photograph local Cyclesport Victoria races. Now, through his perseverance, hard work, and unbelievable love for the sport he’s just completed shooting the Giro and is on his way to Critérium du Dauphiné. I always love a good story about someone never taking no for an answer, quitting his office job, and simply following his passion. I’ve asked Veeral to share his experience and some of his favorite Giro photos with us.
The Giro’d Italia took 21 days to complete and it has felt more like three months have elapsed. I am on my last day in Italy before I venture into France for Critérium du Dauphiné. It has taken a few days for me to adjust to the fact that the Giro has finished as each morning I have woken up feeling the sense of rush to get to the start line.
Some say I have been a lucky son of a gun to make it to the Giro. I wish luck had something to do with this. Prior to going to the Giro, I felt rather lost and misguided and my life lacked the balance it required. I had spent a considerable amount of time travelling interstate and every spare moment spent working in the hope that my career would prosper. Over time the frequency of working late nights and weekends I slowly felt disdained and disconnected from the things I love doing in my personal time.
I have always been one of those individuals who have been in awe of others who have taken bold risks and navigated into uncharted territory. Previously, it would have been incomprehensible for me to embark on a drastic change in life. The change has come about from a decision at the start of this year, my wife and I made. We decided introduce changes that would help align ourselves closer to what we are passionate about. As a result, I had decided upon pursuing the Giro. The notion of forgoing the monthly pay-cheque in order to pursue this adventure was difficult, however having the support of my wife made the transition easier. Furthermore, she insisted that I go and was not having it any other way.
One of the major hurdles for me in the Giro apart from not being able to string a single sentence in Italian was the driving. Driving on the opposite side of the road and in Italy was a daunting prospect. That was one part that on a few occasions gave me sleepless nights. I still recall arriving in Turin and taking the taxi to the center of the town, I was beyond freaked out. The very next day I had to pick up my rental car. I spent time at a busy intersection in Turin being the vigilant observer, which didn’t help either and cumulatively added to my driving woes.
Reflecting back, I can’t stop laughing at all the driving issues I had during the first week of Giro. I have had a few scary moments on the infamous auto-strada. One such moment was during the drive to Rapollo, while driving in the left lane to overtake the Katusha team bus. The bus decides to overtake the truck in front it and swerves in front of me without any prior indication. You can imagine what would have been my reaction. There have been plenty of sweaty palms and armpits moments whilst driving through dense crowds, pitch black roads in the middle of the night (fear of the boogieman) and extremely narrow laneways with an inch between the side-view mirrors and the walls.
I had anticipated the Giro to be tough especially considering it would be my first time in a grand tour as well as being on my own. Additionally, not being fluent in Italian added to the problems with the police and Giro officials. I was amazed by the Italians to the extent they would go out of there way to help you out despite the language barrier problems. Some of them have been very welcoming, buying me beer just to have a chat with me. Everywhere I went, the Italians wanted me to take their photograph and they wanted a photograph of me with them. They assumed that I was from La Gazzetta but when I explain to them I am from Australia, their reactions are priceless. All they think of is kangaroos and Italians pronounce it as coon-gaa-roo. In hindsight, being fluent in Italian would have helped me immensely photographing the spirit of the Giro, the people.
The Giro has helped me understand how difficult photographing a race can be. Even though I was in a car by myself, the opportunities are fewer. Some opportunities the location is terrible, the artistic talent is taking these locations and producing enticing photographs. Additionally, taking different perspectives from a single location to create an array of assorted imagery.
Driving a car can be frustrating but that’s where the fun is. Ultimately, you are in a race yourself, against time and the grupetto to the finish line without any live race updates. I have been lost, denied access and stuck in extremely bad traffic on countless occasions, however I still won’t trade it for air-conditioned cubical with a Herman Miller chair. In situations such as this helps you become more resilient, vehemently challenge difficult situations and most importantly being spontaneous. This is all part of the Giro experience.
In terms of photography, the Giro has added more latitude to my skillset as well making me realize how much of the Giro remains hidden from photographers. Italy in its own right is phenomenal country with countless stories that amalgamated with photographs from the Giro would make a quintessential tale to share. I would love an opportunity to explore this avenue further as a project for either next year’s Giro or Le Tour.
Finally, if it had not been for my wife walking into my life, this would have been a fantasy. Furthermore, I would not have realized the adventure cycling photography offers in a grand tour. In a nutshell passion, and persistence triumphs over a gold medal any day.
You can see more of Veeral’s photos on his blog here.