How Best to Performance Journalism™ a “Mountain Stage” of a Grand Tour
- Find a “road book” or technical race manual printed in English. This is easier said than done, especially if you’re only covering a selection of stages and you show-up mid-race rather than from the very start. It’s one thing to pick-up all the paperwork and orientation materials from the Press Office in actual building on day-one, it’s another to find the right shit from a day-seventeen ransacked aluminum mobile home dressed in pink balloons and white tissue paper garlands, and looking/vibing more like a post-prom-night walk-of-shame than a Press Office.
- Look at the road book, like, actually use it. Also easier said than done, because at night you’re thinking where do I find the best pizza in this town?, how bad will the wifi be?, will I have time to stream the last episode of The Terror?, and finally, where the F did I leave the road book?
“Steve, did you see the road book in the back seat under the empty Whole Foods Salted Almonds plastic ziplock bag and the half-dozen or so empty Frizzante bottles, and the orange gummy bears I don’t eat so I just throw them around the car for sport? Is the road book under all that shit?”
- Pay attention to whether or not you can drive ALL THE WAY to the top of the mountain. It is NOT, I repeat, NOT, a given. It is also not printed in the road book, which what the fuck is the point of the road book if not for EXACTLY this kinda information? Day after day, this kinda information is NOT in the road book. When I say “pay attention,” I’m not sure what I mean by that. I think it’s partly asking all the hardened digi warrior vets, for whom this is like their 87th Giro, as many questions as you can—you see them at the start area, finish area, and sometimes out on the course if they pick the same ditch or tree stand you pick from which to wait for the race for a hundred hours in the sun with no mobile service. You shoot the shit, you ask questions. Also, I think I mean it pays to be “open,” to letting providence or luck guide you. Go with the flow, swim around the rock not into the rock. Be flexible. And don’t be afraid to run the ignorance and naivety game, YOU NEVER KNOW, you might get through that which you should not by “head fucking” race officials and the police. Your confidence, everybody’s exhaustion (attrition), and sticker privilege can add-up to a “wave through” at the barricades. Just don’t count on this working. Employ it sparingly, be stoked when it works, but back the F off if it’s not working. Don’t force this, trust me: while it’s worth it in some ways, you will miss the rest of the stage if you’re in an Italian Police Station for six-ish hours.
- Find a ski lift. Your credentials will get you on that puppy no problem.
- Get in a team car. Actually nope, no snow banked gravel climb is worth six hours in a team car. Seriously. Unless you’re an actual journalist but dude that’s the bed you made, that’s not my bed.
- It doesn’t hurt to look at Google Street View and do some virtual recon the night before. Or if you can do Remote Viewing, do that. I’m super into Remote Viewing but I can’t do it. Can any of our readers teach Remote Viewing or recommend a good Remote Viewing class? If you do/can, please contact us!
- Even if you can drive to the top, don’t. I mean… maybe don’t.
- First, look at the stage profile. Steep = good. Switchbacks (“the spaghetti sections”) = good. A lot of mountains are like a mullet, only reversed. The party is in the front, and the business, the finish shot with the arms up and all that boring shit, is in the back.
- Most Euro mountain roads, even with all that party in the spaghetti, will have some place to pull off before the super good or just after the super good. Sure, you might need to park on top of somebody’s cow or porch, but it’s cool, this is Europe.
- If you do drive to the top, don’t let your car be culled from the race caravan pack by accident, or through officials doing their job wrong, or because the race didn’t properly plan for parking. If you do, if you let norm traffic come between you and the course/caravan, you will not be able to insinuate yourself (#stickerprivilege) into the caravan exodus. The caravan exodus goes ahead of everyone else. Everyone else waits in gridlock for hours and hours and hours. No cell service. No any kind of service. If you’re lucky you’ll get Radio Kiss Kiss but that’s about it. Oh and you will be out of nuts and waters by that point so don’t plan on eating while you’re in the mountainside gridlock shit.
On the last day of our 2018 Giro campaign, Steve and I did like 2 out of the 10 things listed above. I blame that on Steve. And on myself. But also on God and Italy. Also I just wrote the list so at the time, like four days ago or whatever, I did not have this list to reference. So we sat in gridlock for five hours after the race ended and still spent a bonus hour getting off the mountain cause the Everybody Else exodus was THICK as shit. And then we drove two hours to Milano. Whatever. I mean, we got to run into and chat with Thomas Dekker at an Autogrill, that’s worth something right? Did you know he lives in LA now, I didn’t!
The thing is, on the way up, we were in a Matterhorn trance. It had dawned on us a few days earlier that the race was essentially driving up to the base of the Matterhorn, or at least that’s what it looked like on Google Maps. But still, we really didn’t know what that meant in terms of actually being able to see the Matterhorn. I mean, it’s the Alps, who knows what you can see from where based on Google Maps?, unless you use Street View, which we didn’t because, listen, we just didn’t. So yeah, we made to the bottom of the last climb just ahead of the race, not with a ton of time to spare but we made it—this wasn’t a “done deal” on account of having shot the first climb and the field being a bit nappo’d.
“Anyway, we started driving up and there it was, the fucking Matterhorn. Sure it’s the “ugly” side of the Matterhorn but dude it’s the Matterhorn so who cares.”
Also, even if Switzerland has the pretty side of the Matterhorn that just means you have to go to Switzerland to see it… which means NOT WORTH IT. IMO. Side note, I have no idea why I’m so enamored by the Matterhorn, I just am. I mean, it does look like a witch hat which is obvs cool as shit. Acccccctually it kinda looks more like the Sorting Hat from Hogwarts. Same same, really. And I think it’s kinda tall, though not the tallest. And maybe it’s hard to climb even though Steve repeatedly tried to convince me that he could climb it in his “one hour photo” Reeboks no sweat. Whatever the case, it just kept getting bigger and bigger the further up the road we went until suddenly it was clear that this town or ski resort or whatever it was we were driving to basically lived at the very base of the “ugly” side of the Matterhorn and at that point I got giddy and vertical hand-clapped right past all the rad places to shoot the race, got to the deviation, allowed the officials to send us up a rando mountain road to park with 7,895 regs ensuring that we’d spend at least a million years waiting in traffic aaaaaaaaaaaaand forcing Steve and I to walk a million miles back down this road plus the last four km of the course if we wanted to see the race in a halfway-decent spot. All because I had Matterhorn Fever. That said it, we had a magic time with the bummer side of a magic mountain so the day totally worked out. Also there was no “super SIQ” section of the course, even the steep bit. Also also, after the race was over Steve and I sat in the car in a majestic Alps thunderstorm in the shadow of the Matterhorn and listened to GFOTY – “Tongue” (Lil Data Remix) over and over and over again.
I dare you to listen to GFOTY – “Tongue” (Lil Data Remix) over and over and over again. Alps or no Alps. It’s so good. But yeah, if you combine it with thunder and lighting and sleet and legit eye contact with the Matterhorn it’s basically a recipe for “the quickening” or rapture or whatever version of absolute truth you’re into. Thanks Giro, Ciao, Grazie!