Best images of 2020: Matera, Giro d’Italia

James Startt recalls the struggle to find the perfect position to capture the peloton rolling through the ancient city.

Photo: James Startt. Camera Data: Nikon Z7 | 70-200mm f/2.8 | 1/1250 sec. f/8 ISO 500

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Ever since the Giro d’Italia rescheduled its race route in the post-COVID world, I had my eye on stage seven, with its historic start in the ancient city of Matera.

For years I had heard about this location, considered one of the world’s oldest continually inhabited cities. Images from the historic center, that literally depict the layering of civilizations, only perked my imagination further. And the thought of a bike race rolling through this town, well, that alone was worth a trip to this year’s Giro.

Stage six finished on the outskirts of town and in the evening I walked around the historic center. But the meandering passageways provide a virtual maze to first-time visitors. And even with the Giro d’Italia road book, I found it hard to see just where the race would pass. It seemed impossible to get a shot of the peloton and the city together.

I got up early again in the morning and went out walking once more. Finally, I stumbled across race signs that allowed me to understand just where the race would pass. But it wasn’t until I reached the Saint Agostino Convent, perched atop the old town, that I understood just where I could photograph.

Working the spot, I identified several vantage points. And when the peloton finally arrived I ran across the square in front of the convent. But finally, it was this shot, one of the last, that stands out the most. As the pack nears the corner before turning to climb out of town, they seem almost buried in the mass of ancient architecture.

I loved the way the repetition of colors from the peloton stands out so distinctly from the golden monochromatic architecture of ancient Matera. There were a lot of good shots from this day, but this one stands out among them all. And looking back over a year in pictures, this is most definitely one of my favorites.

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