Stage seven of the Giro d’Italia was always going to be a photographer’s dream – but it didn’t quite turn out the way everyone had anticipated.
There were no poetic pictures of the riders leaving huge plumes of white dust in their wake, images we’re so familiar with from the single-day race in Tuscany, the Eroica.
Instead the rain turned the roads to filthy brown mud and made the racing even more demanding than it otherwise would have been.
Cadel Evans eased clear of the rest in the final kilometre to win in impressive fashion. His bold rainbow jersey was still just about visible under the grime.
Alexandre Vinokourov leads Evans. The road surface has turned nasty.
David Millar’s face, body and bike are coated in a layer of mud but he has a brief respite on the smooth surface. He rode to 11th place to climb up to third overall.
The pain and unpleasantness of riding on the gravel and getting covered in mud shows on the face of Bradley Wiggins.
Before they got to the muddy bits, Rick Flens (Rabobank) and Nicki Sorensen (Saxo Bank) attacked. They got five minutes ahead but were shut down by the eager peloton.
Lampre and Katusha did a lot of chasing to bring the break back.
Forty kilometres from the finish, Team Sky’s Dario Cioni attacked hard. He didn’t get much of a lead but his move put the pressure on behind and contributed to the bunch splitting.
Michael Barry of Team Sky drills it on the front before the race entered its muddy hell.
Milram’s Linus Gerdemann was one of the first to attack on the dirt roads.
The main men on the mud. Vinokourov, Evans, Cunego and Garzelli.
His pink jersey turning browner with every minute, Vincenzo Nibali and Ivan Basso were isolated and lost two minutes.
Evans, the world champion, doing the rainbow jersey proud. Vinokourov and David Arroyo hang on.
For a couple of kilometres, Evans and Vinokourov were out in front on their own.
The effort shows on the faces of Vinokourov and Garzelli.
Wiggins chases hard. There won’t be any gravel roads at the Tour de France, but this was a testing day in the saddle that will stand him in good stead.