My friend Micki used to ride the gritty roads of Guangzhou with me. Now she’s living the dream, working in Europe and doing things like enjoying a curbside view of the Tour de France as it makes its way through Spa, Belgium. Micki recently shared a bunch of fantastic photos, a wonderful collage of the riders and the fans – or tifosi – who love our beautiful sport and will wait hours just to get a glimpse of the peloton fly by. The above image is my favorite. Micki really captured the boys’ posture of anticipation: torsos leaning, knees bent, eyes fixed down the road. I bet the little guy in green banged up his elbow the day before in a kermis.
The picture also reminded me of the recent advertising campaign by the Belgian bike maker Ridley. One ad shows a motley group of people, mostly working class folks of every age, dressed in winter coats, standing on the side of the road in a drab town on a bitterly cold early spring afternoon, waiting for the riders. The ad slogan reads, “We are Belgium.” Cycling geeks in America will get the ad. But it would be lost on most normal people in the U.S. They still don’t know that Belgium is the holy land of cycling.
The photo also got me thinking about a funny anecdote in Joe Parkin’s latest book, “Come and Gone.” He likes to talk about how the average Belgian child has a deeper understanding and appreciation of cycling than the average American. In his book, he describes how after he finished his racing career in Belgium, he was competing in a U.S. event. He was trying to catch up with the lead group, and he wanted to know how far up the road the leaders were. So he asked a spectator, “What’s the time?” And the person replied, “1:45 p.m.” (or some other time, I can’t remember exactly). Parkin says that in Belgium, fans will instinctively time the gap between the leaders. Kids who don’t wear watches will count it out in their heads and yell it out to the riders. “Thousand one, thousand two, thousand three…”
Please enjoy a few more of Micki’s pics:
I was delighted to see this photo of my favorite rider, Sylvain Chavanel. On Saturday, Paul Sherwen shared an interesting factoid about the French rider. Chavanel is actually of Spanish descent. His family moved to France during the Spanish Civil War. Chavanel is having a great tour. As usual, he’s one of the most aggressive riders and is always looking for a way to animate the race. And he has already won two stages and spent a day in yellow!
Old, young, men, women, fat, skinny…they’re all out there. Fantastic.
When I saw this photo, I blurted out, “Spartacus!” Micki really got the money shot for the day.
Hmmm, wait a minute. Maybe THIS is what the two boys were eagerly anticipating. The Haribo candy truck!wafflesandsteel | Filed under: Belgium, Joe Parkin, Sylvain Chavanel, Tour de France | 1 Comment »