"I usually only get 10-15 viewers on my Instagram Live," says Igor Tavella. "But when I saw there were 380 people watching I thought 'oops, better continue the show or people will get mad at me'."
With television coverage of the Giro d'Italia interrupted due to the extreme weather in the Dolomites on stage 16, viewers around the world were clueless as to what was unfolding up the Passo Giau. So one fan took it upon himself to broadcast the race to the world, going live on Instagram to bring pictures to the world until the battery on his phone ran out.
Poor weather not only reduced the stage, taking out the cima coppi, but also made it impossible for helicopters or the altitude plane that delivers the pictures to take flight, broadcasters RAI attempting to instead bring show live pictures via a 4G signal, which proved intermittent.
As Bernal stamped his authority on the race, television coverage was reduced to dots moving along a stage profile graphic and smiling fans waiting patiently at the finish line.
But Tavella had braved the conditions to see what only a few will have witnessed, and by standing still his 4G connection proved more stable.
"Before the riders arrived I did some Instagram stories and realised I had loads of comments from friends around the world saying there was no TV coverage," Tavella, a hotel manager in the region and keen cyclist, told Cycling Weekly. "I then had the idea to go live on Instagram as the first riders came past."
While Tavella filmed riders climbing up snow-banked roads, the comments flew in. "Grazie" said one, "thank you from Colombia" was another. "Do you cover any other races?!" "Thanks Ivor, time for bed now in Australia".
"Good night Australia!" replied Tavella, cheering on each group of frostbitten riders that passed him.
"The day looked terrible at the beginning, two hours before the riders arrived it was two degrees and snowing hard," Tavella said. "In the Dolomites as soon some wind comes up from south it stopped snowing and cleared up just that little bit so riders at least didn’t ride all the way up in the fog."
We'll have to wait in hope that the TV cameras recorded as much footage as they could so the rest of us can see what happened. But for now, at least, Tavella will have one of the few first-hand accounts.
"Bernal looked strong but you could still see he was giving everything in order to win the stage. I didn’t see Evenepoel, honestly, the riders were hard to recognise because they were all wearing black," he said.
"Apart from the top riders you could see how all the others were suffering. You don’t see that on the TV either so that’s the best part of watching a stage live, waiting until the gruppetto arrives."
After some of the last riders and team cars had gone past, Tavella gave one last panoramic view of his surroundings before signing off, joking:
"I’ll see you next time RAI can’t do the coverage."
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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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