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Giro d'Italia race tech: Stage 20 with Vittoria neutral support

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This was our office for Stage 20: Vittoria Servizio Corse car #2. The Skoda Octavia TDI wagon is roomy enough for people and gear, manuverable enough when things get sketchy, and the 2.0L turbodiesel engine was well up for the task with an impressive amount of punch.

This was our office for Stage 20: Vittoria Servizio Corse car #2. The Skoda Octavia TDI wagon is roomy enough for people and gear, manuverable enough when things get sketchy, and the 2.0L turbodiesel engine was well up for the task with an impressive amount of punch. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Mechanic Riccardo Debertolis watches intently, ready to leap out of the car as needed.

Mechanic Riccardo Debertolis watches intently, ready to leap out of the car as needed. (Image credit: James Huang)
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There was a short section of road under construction en route to the base of the Stelvio. The dust was so bad from passing vehicles that it was difficult to see the ground.

There was a short section of road under construction en route to the base of the Stelvio. The dust was so bad from passing vehicles that it was difficult to see the ground. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Just 30km - but a lot of climbing - to go.

Just 30km - but a lot of climbing - to go. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Heading into the mountains yet again.

Heading into the mountains yet again. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Race helicopters are fitted with camera pods up front.

Race helicopters are fitted with camera pods up front. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The peloton was strung out nearly in single field heading into the base of the Stelvio.

The peloton was strung out nearly in single field heading into the base of the Stelvio. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Sometimes riders just need a bit of encouragement.

Sometimes riders just need a bit of encouragement. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Situtated at the base of the Stelvio, the town of Bormio was out in force on this day.

Situtated at the base of the Stelvio, the town of Bormio was out in force on this day. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Just 20km to go on the road but for many riders, it would feel like an eternity.

Just 20km to go on the road but for many riders, it would feel like an eternity. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The Dolomites were quite the sight to behold but to the riders, they represented a lot of pain and suffering.

The Dolomites were quite the sight to behold but to the riders, they represented a lot of pain and suffering. (Image credit: James Huang)
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A Liquigas-Cannondale mechanic earning his keep with a quick bike change.

A Liquigas-Cannondale mechanic earning his keep with a quick bike change. (Image credit: James Huang)
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We rocketed down the other side of the Mortirolo, tires squealing at every corner.

We rocketed down the other side of the Mortirolo, tires squealing at every corner. (Image credit: James Huang)
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It was extremely slow going up the Mortirolo. We were passing riders even at this speed. It was also tough going for the support vehicles. We saw one police motorcycle on the side of the road just before the summit with a burnt-out clutch.

It was extremely slow going up the Mortirolo. We were passing riders even at this speed. It was also tough going for the support vehicles. We saw one police motorcycle on the side of the road just before the summit with a burnt-out clutch. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The Vittoria Servizio Corse crew was there for mechanical assistance but also to help out the riders themselves. Team vehicles simply can't be everywhere so Servizio Corse is often a godsend.

The Vittoria Servizio Corse crew was there for mechanical assistance but also to help out the riders themselves. Team vehicles simply can't be everywhere so Servizio Corse is often a godsend. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Out of nowhere, a bottle appears on the slopes of the Mortirolo.

Out of nowhere, a bottle appears on the slopes of the Mortirolo. (Image credit: James Huang)
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It's no easy task to deliver a bottle to a rider in these conditions. The roads of the Mortirolo was frighteningly narrow, extremely crowded, and super twisty.

It's no easy task to deliver a bottle to a rider in these conditions. The roads of the Mortirolo was frighteningly narrow, extremely crowded, and super twisty. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Most of the riders were ok being just handed a bottle of water but several asked for their own bottles to be filled instead. Mechanic Riccardo Debertolis was frantically at work in the back seat filling bottles as quickly as possible as there were literally just seconds available.

Most of the riders were ok being just handed a bottle of water but several asked for their own bottles to be filled instead. Mechanic Riccardo Debertolis was frantically at work in the back seat filling bottles as quickly as possible as there were literally just seconds available. (Image credit: James Huang)
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This was quite likely the best bottle of water this rider had seen all day.

This was quite likely the best bottle of water this rider had seen all day. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The Vittoria neutral moto nearly left this wheel on the side of the road in the commotion after a change but we were right behind to let them know it was there.

The Vittoria neutral moto nearly left this wheel on the side of the road in the commotion after a change but we were right behind to let them know it was there. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Exactly how narrow were the roads up the Mortirolo? There was barely enough pavement for one car, let alone spectators and motos - oh, and riders, too.

Exactly how narrow were the roads up the Mortirolo? There was barely enough pavement for one car, let alone spectators and motos - oh, and riders, too. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Zealous fans donned all sorts of outfits on the side of the road.

Zealous fans donned all sorts of outfits on the side of the road. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Heading into one of the numerous tunnels as we wound up way up the pass.

Heading into one of the numerous tunnels as we wound up way up the pass. (Image credit: James Huang)
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This fan enjoyed a unique perspective from his high-up perch.

This fan enjoyed a unique perspective from his high-up perch. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Maglia rosa Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) and eventual overall winner Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) were locked together for much of the climb.

Maglia rosa Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) and eventual overall winner Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) were locked together for much of the climb. (Image credit: James Huang)
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This fan covered himself in the pink pages of the Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.

This fan covered himself in the pink pages of the Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper. (Image credit: James Huang)
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These resort workers took advantage of some of the available equipment to give themselves a better vantage point.

These resort workers took advantage of some of the available equipment to give themselves a better vantage point. (Image credit: James Huang)
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These fans waited up here for hours just for a glimpse of their favorite riders.

These fans waited up here for hours just for a glimpse of their favorite riders. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Fans traveled to the Stelvio from all over the globe.

Fans traveled to the Stelvio from all over the globe. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Just 100 meters to go now. Our day is just about done. Vehicles are obliged to exit the course just before the finish.

Just 100 meters to go now. Our day is just about done. Vehicles are obliged to exit the course just before the finish. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Needless to say, it was cold up here and on a long stage like this, riders arrived relatively late in the day. Temperatures dropped quickly.

Needless to say, it was cold up here and on a long stage like this, riders arrived relatively late in the day. Temperatures dropped quickly. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Vittoria Servizio Corse driver Dario Acquaroli at left and mechanic Riccardo Debertolis can finally get out of the car and stretch their legs a bit after seven straight hours in the car with not a single rest stop. It was still another three hours to get to our hotel for the evening on top of that.

Vittoria Servizio Corse driver Dario Acquaroli at left and mechanic Riccardo Debertolis can finally get out of the car and stretch their legs a bit after seven straight hours in the car with not a single rest stop. It was still another three hours to get to our hotel for the evening on top of that. (Image credit: James Huang)
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A fan takes in the scene on the side of the road.

A fan takes in the scene on the side of the road. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Liquigas-Cannondale team leader Ivan Basso would suffer greatly on this day.

Liquigas-Cannondale team leader Ivan Basso would suffer greatly on this day. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Just 5km to go now but still a fair bit of climbing to do.

Just 5km to go now but still a fair bit of climbing to do. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The Stelvio was a cruel way to end the day. Domestiques had largely done their work by this point in the stage and many just wanted to make it to the finish.

The Stelvio was a cruel way to end the day. Domestiques had largely done their work by this point in the stage and many just wanted to make it to the finish. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Radio motos were busy feeding live commentary during the stage.

Radio motos were busy feeding live commentary during the stage. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Some fans, on the other hand, decided that virtually no costume at all was best.

Some fans, on the other hand, decided that virtually no costume at all was best. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Riders simply toss empty bottles on the side of the road. Normally this would be considered littering but eager fans snatch up virtually everything.

Riders simply toss empty bottles on the side of the road. Normally this would be considered littering but eager fans snatch up virtually everything. (Image credit: James Huang)
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On the one hand, the switchbacks heading up the Stelvio are a beautiful sight but then again, it's also hard to ignore what lies ahead.

On the one hand, the switchbacks heading up the Stelvio are a beautiful sight but then again, it's also hard to ignore what lies ahead. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The maglia rosa group makes its way up the Stelvio just ahead of our car.

The maglia rosa group makes its way up the Stelvio just ahead of our car. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The view back down the valley as we approach the summit of the Stelvio.

The view back down the valley as we approach the summit of the Stelvio. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Water from melting snow was cascading down the side of the road.

Water from melting snow was cascading down the side of the road. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The entire Vittoria Servizio Corse crew, standing in front of their hospitality bus at the final time trial in Milan. Vittoria Group president and CEO Rudie Campagne is standing in the center with program manager Veronica Passoni to his left.

The entire Vittoria Servizio Corse crew, standing in front of their hospitality bus at the final time trial in Milan. Vittoria Group president and CEO Rudie Campagne is standing in the center with program manager Veronica Passoni to his left. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Race numbers for an event like the Giro d'Italia aren't like the paper numbers used in amateur races. These numbers are printed on supple, woven fabric for flexibility and have adhesive backings so as to present minimal interference with jersey pockets. Riders still apply a few safety pins just in case, though.

Race numbers for an event like the Giro d'Italia aren't like the paper numbers used in amateur races. These numbers are printed on supple, woven fabric for flexibility and have adhesive backings so as to present minimal interference with jersey pockets. Riders still apply a few safety pins just in case, though. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The view from the finish of Stage 20 atop the Stelvio was stunning with the late day sun, bright blue sky, and blanket of snow.

The view from the finish of Stage 20 atop the Stelvio was stunning with the late day sun, bright blue sky, and blanket of snow. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The neutral roll-out is now over and it's time to race. Riders wasted no time on this day, either, as the field was strung out in single file immediately, spitting several riders off the back - some of whom never managed to get back on.

The neutral roll-out is now over and it's time to race. Riders wasted no time on this day, either, as the field was strung out in single file immediately, spitting several riders off the back - some of whom never managed to get back on. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Acquaroli keeps the stage profile within easy view so he knows what's coming.

Acquaroli keeps the stage profile within easy view so he knows what's coming. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The driver's seat is a busy area during a Giro stage. There's the constant chatter of the official race radio plus Vittoria's own vehicle-to-vehicle radio, too. A holster for a third is pictured but that wasn't in use this day. Acquaroli says the automatic transmissions on this year's cars are a huge improvement over last year's manual-equipped vehicles.

The driver's seat is a busy area during a Giro stage. There's the constant chatter of the official race radio plus Vittoria's own vehicle-to-vehicle radio, too. A holster for a third is pictured but that wasn't in use this day. Acquaroli says the automatic transmissions on this year's cars are a huge improvement over last year's manual-equipped vehicles. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Orica-Greenedge rider Jack Bobridge started the day off in a bad way, falling off the back immediately.

Orica-Greenedge rider Jack Bobridge started the day off in a bad way, falling off the back immediately. (Image credit: James Huang)
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A friendly chat between crews. The Katusha team borrowed (and broke) a Vittoria neutral wheel the day before. Both cars pulled over very briefly so the wheel could be returned.

A friendly chat between crews. The Katusha team borrowed (and broke) a Vittoria neutral wheel the day before. Both cars pulled over very briefly so the wheel could be returned. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Our car was assigned to man the rear of the peloton. While we didn't witness the racing action right up front, there was still plenty going on back here, including the sad sight of Jack Bobridge (Orica-Greenedge) abandoning the race on the penultimate stage less than 10km from the start.

Our car was assigned to man the rear of the peloton. While we didn't witness the racing action right up front, there was still plenty going on back here, including the sad sight of Jack Bobridge (Orica-Greenedge) abandoning the race on the penultimate stage less than 10km from the start. (Image credit: James Huang)
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An Orica-Greenedge team car pulled off in advance so Jack Bobridge could just pull off the road and hop in the car. This year's Giro d'Italia route was a tough one and though Bobridge was just two days away from finishing the race, Stage 20 was truly a monster.

An Orica-Greenedge team car pulled off in advance so Jack Bobridge could just pull off the road and hop in the car. This year's Giro d'Italia route was a tough one and though Bobridge was just two days away from finishing the race, Stage 20 was truly a monster. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The first few kilometers are generally pretty quiet. Vittoria neutral service mechanic Riccardo Debertolis takes a minute to read the paper. It was going to be a very long day in the car and there was going to be plenty to do later on.

The first few kilometers are generally pretty quiet. Vittoria neutral service mechanic Riccardo Debertolis takes a minute to read the paper. It was going to be a very long day in the car and there was going to be plenty to do later on. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The headrest of the front passenger seat is typically removed so as to give the mechanic a clearer view of the road ahead.

The headrest of the front passenger seat is typically removed so as to give the mechanic a clearer view of the road ahead. (Image credit: James Huang)
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IMG_4569 - Luka Medgec of Sava happy for today stage win

IMG_4569 - Luka Medgec of Sava happy for today stage win (Image credit: James Huang)
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Driver Dario Acquaroli watches attentively in the rearview mirror during the stage. Action is happening on all sides and situational awareness is critical.

Driver Dario Acquaroli watches attentively in the rearview mirror during the stage. Action is happening on all sides and situational awareness is critical. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The Vittoria Servizio Corse bikes are typically only used for minutes at a time - just long enough until a rider can get a proper replacement from their own team car.

The Vittoria Servizio Corse bikes are typically only used for minutes at a time - just long enough until a rider can get a proper replacement from their own team car. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The Vittoria Servizio Corse bikes have to be able to accommodate any rider on any team but with so many sizes and pedal types, it's basically just luck of the draw.

The Vittoria Servizio Corse bikes have to be able to accommodate any rider on any team but with so many sizes and pedal types, it's basically just luck of the draw. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The Vittoria Servizio Corse crew usually does a number of wheel changes during any given road stage of the Giro d'Italia with a fleet of Shimano and Vision wheels at the ready. As it turns out, our car didn't have to swap any wheels during the stage but it was better to be prepared nonetheless.

The Vittoria Servizio Corse crew usually does a number of wheel changes during any given road stage of the Giro d'Italia with a fleet of Shimano and Vision wheels at the ready. As it turns out, our car didn't have to swap any wheels during the stage but it was better to be prepared nonetheless. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The spare carbon Pinarellos atop the Vittoria Servizio Corse car are built with Shimano Ultegra or Campagnolo Chorus componentry.

The spare carbon Pinarellos atop the Vittoria Servizio Corse car are built with Shimano Ultegra or Campagnolo Chorus componentry. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Naturally, everything on top of the Vittoria neutral service car is fitted with top-end Vittoria tubular tires.

Naturally, everything on top of the Vittoria neutral service car is fitted with top-end Vittoria tubular tires. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The custom roof racks used in races like the Giro d'Italia aren't like the ones typically seen on consumer vehicles. These are designed first and foremost for quick access. The rear ends of spare bikes atop the Vittoria Servizio Corse vehicle, for example, are held in place with simple bungee cords.

The custom roof racks used in races like the Giro d'Italia aren't like the ones typically seen on consumer vehicles. These are designed first and foremost for quick access. The rear ends of spare bikes atop the Vittoria Servizio Corse vehicle, for example, are held in place with simple bungee cords. (Image credit: James Huang)
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This is the typical arrangement of spare wheels in the rear of the car.

This is the typical arrangement of spare wheels in the rear of the car. (Image credit: James Huang)
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There are few better ways to get close to the race than as a passenger in the caravan.

There are few better ways to get close to the race than as a passenger in the caravan. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Stage 20 offered up some amazing scenery as the road headed up into the mountains. We can't help but wonder if the riders even noticed, though.

Stage 20 offered up some amazing scenery as the road headed up into the mountains. We can't help but wonder if the riders even noticed, though. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Vittoria Servizio Corse driver Dario Acquaroli is a former U23 mountain bike world champion and only retired from racing three years ago. He was clearly well known in these parts, too, with fans frequently yelling his name as we rolled by.

Vittoria Servizio Corse driver Dario Acquaroli is a former U23 mountain bike world champion and only retired from racing three years ago. He was clearly well known in these parts, too, with fans frequently yelling his name as we rolled by. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Team vehicles have in-car radios but sometimes it's just easier to yell out the window.

Team vehicles have in-car radios but sometimes it's just easier to yell out the window. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Feed zones are a busy area for the team support staff.

Feed zones are a busy area for the team support staff. (Image credit: James Huang)
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We're not sure why this Astana rider pulled off his jersey but there was a TV cameraman perched on the back of a moto to catch the event.

We're not sure why this Astana rider pulled off his jersey but there was a TV cameraman perched on the back of a moto to catch the event. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Still jerseyless, this Astana rider catches the draft of his team car so as not to lose too much ground.

Still jerseyless, this Astana rider catches the draft of his team car so as not to lose too much ground. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Issue resolved and jersey back in place, it was a tough bit of work to rejoin the field.

Issue resolved and jersey back in place, it was a tough bit of work to rejoin the field. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Domestiques pack an incredible number of bottles into their jerseys.

Domestiques pack an incredible number of bottles into their jerseys. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Bottles go anywhere they'll fit. Needless to say, domestiques have a hard job.

Bottles go anywhere they'll fit. Needless to say, domestiques have a hard job. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Bottles in place, this Colnago-CSF rider now has to burn a few matches to get back into the group and make his deliveries.

Bottles in place, this Colnago-CSF rider now has to burn a few matches to get back into the group and make his deliveries. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Support vehicle drivers have to be constantly aware of what's going on around them.

Support vehicle drivers have to be constantly aware of what's going on around them. (Image credit: James Huang)
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An FDJ-Big Mat rider slingshots off the back of the car in hopes of rejoining the field.

An FDJ-Big Mat rider slingshots off the back of the car in hopes of rejoining the field. (Image credit: James Huang)
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We passed Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) on one of the earlier climbs, only to have him blitz right past us again on the following descent. Cavendish fought admirably on this brutal mountain stage but sadly lost his red jersey by a single point by the end of the day.

We passed Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) on one of the earlier climbs, only to have him blitz right past us again on the following descent. Cavendish fought admirably on this brutal mountain stage but sadly lost his red jersey by a single point by the end of the day. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Back here there are just as many support cars as there are riders. Technically speaking there is no drafting allowed but race officials oftentimes look the other way. In this case, these riders aren't looking for a competitive advantage - they're just trying to survive the day.

Back here there are just as many support cars as there are riders. Technically speaking there is no drafting allowed but race officials oftentimes look the other way. In this case, these riders aren't looking for a competitive advantage - they're just trying to survive the day. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Riders were lucky to at least enjoy beautiful weather on this day. The route was tough enough as it was without rain, cold, and wind factoring in as well.

Riders were lucky to at least enjoy beautiful weather on this day. The route was tough enough as it was without rain, cold, and wind factoring in as well. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The top of the day's first climb, Passo del Tonale. Much damage would have been done at this point already.

The top of the day's first climb, Passo del Tonale. Much damage would have been done at this point already. (Image credit: James Huang)
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A Garmin-Barracuda rider rockets down the descent of Passo del Tonale, traveling at a much faster speed than the support vehicles. Acquaroli honked his horn to warn cars ahead that a rider was approaching.

A Garmin-Barracuda rider rockets down the descent of Passo del Tonale, traveling at a much faster speed than the support vehicles. Acquaroli honked his horn to warn cars ahead that a rider was approaching. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Stage 20 claims another rider.

Stage 20 claims another rider. (Image credit: James Huang)
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The roads of the Giro d'Italia play host to a wide range of players. Motos were buzzing around us all day.

The roads of the Giro d'Italia play host to a wide range of players. Motos were buzzing around us all day. (Image credit: James Huang)
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A Radioshack-Nissan-Trek rider catches a little relief from our car.

A Radioshack-Nissan-Trek rider catches a little relief from our car. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Helicopters hovered overhead - and occasionally at eye level. We frequently had to roll up the windows to avoid getting blasted by the rotor's downdraft.

Helicopters hovered overhead - and occasionally at eye level. We frequently had to roll up the windows to avoid getting blasted by the rotor's downdraft. (Image credit: James Huang)
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Bottles often come with a little extra 'boost'.

Bottles often come with a little extra 'boost'. (Image credit: James Huang)

This article originally published on BikeRadar

Teams in the Giro d'Italia have their own fleet of support vehicles but they can't always be at the exact right place when they're needed. Vittoria's Servizio Corse neutral support program fills in the gaps with spare wheels and bikes, water, and sometimes even just a little encouragement. We had the privilege of being a passenger in Vittoria car #2 for Stage 20's epic journey from Caldes to Passo dello Stelvio for a firsthand look at what goes on behind the scenes.

Vittoria fielded four vehicles on this day, including three cars and one motorcycle. Our car was assigned to the rear of the peloton, a role that would normally see heaps of wheel changes but the generally high-quality roads presented few challenges in terms of equipment. As it turns out, our car didn't service a single bike during Stage 20 and we mostly just dutifully followed along, ready to serve as needed from handing out bottles of water to providing the occasional helping hand to riders just struggling to survive the day.

That being said, it's a unique perspective back there that isn't often shown to the public with riders falling off the pace, various teams servicing their own riders, and the sad sight of several riders abandoning the Giro so close to the final day in Milan. There was also plenty of spirited driving as we rocketed down mountain passes trying in vain to keep up with racers along with surgically precise maneuvering on the way up along treacherously narrow roads littered with ravenous fans of struggling riders.

All in all, it was quite the eye opening experience and one that every cycling fan should hopefully get to enjoy at some point in their lifetime. Watching the race on television or on the side of the road is one thing but sitting there inside all the action is another entirely.

Oh, and one word of advice: never, ever buy a used team car.

Many thanks to Vittoria neutral support program manager Veronica Passoni, driver Dario Acquaroli, mechanic Riccardo Debertolis, and the folks at Vittoria USA for the opportunity to ride along.

Click here for the bumper gallery, or continue below for video.

 

 

 

 

 

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