In every race there is a place to which we, the spectators, attach an emotive marker. There is a time, as short as a split second or drawn out to minutes or more, through which passage somehow alters, slows. A rider begins to struggle, slipping from wheel to wheel, sliding back. With only space behind him, he digs deep, finds a little extra and holds on, hoping the group will slow. But the pace is relentless, the slope unforgiving. In a moment a gap opens behind another rider just ahead. It widens. But the rider yet again finds, from some untapped depth within, just a little more energy. Enough to close the gap. He hopes the group will slow, and for a flicker of time it does. But the groups forward drive is inexorable and the gap opens again, this time for good. A noticeable change comes over the rider; where the merest moment before was a look of desperate struggle, now there is the shadow of resignation. The bright optimism the rider exhibited at the race start has been extinguished. Head bowed, shoulders slumped down, his pace slows and the group rides away.
Sometimes not even the maglia rosa is a strong enough shield to protect the gregario. The team must put its efforts where they will bring results. Sometimes those results do not lie with the race leader. The camera might linger for a while, searching for some indication, a sign of fight, rekindled defiance, but none is forthcoming. Whether with compassion or indifference, the camera speeds away in search of the next hero.
Whether these past two days in pink prove to be the one highlight in the cycling career of Ramunas Navardauskas, or but one in a series of highlights, it is unlikely he will forget them.
photo: Fotoreporter Sirotti