The Tour de France is known for the wild enthusiasm of its fans. The fans are part of the spectacle. Where else do you see people camping in devil costumes replete with pitchfork or dressed as Borat running up a hill? I have never seen so many men in thongs. As one of them explained to me, “we don’t normally dress like this, we do it for the Tour.”
Others dress like they normally do. These guys might not normally plan to all wear same hot pink jersey. Then again, they might.
People show their enthusiasm for the Tour in their dress. This poor lady from Luxembourg had a cast. She painted her toenails in her country’s colors and drew red and white polka dots (to represent the King of the Mountains polka dot jersey), yellow and green stripes (for the Yellow and Green jerseys that go to the overall tour winner and the leader in the sprint points).
Although the Tour de France is France’s premier sporting event, its international aspect is an integral part of it. We saw people from:
- the Netherlands,
- the United Kingdom,
- New Zealand,
- and the United States (although Boris and Natasha said that there weren’t as many Americans as there were during the Lance Armstrong era).
Having a rider win the Tour de France, is a huge boost to cycling in that country. People become more familiar with the sport, it gets more publicity, people starts buying more bikes and riding more. Australian’s interest in cycling and the Tour exploded with the success of Australian Cadel Evans who won the Tour last year.
We saw tons of flags we’d never seen before. There were tons of Brits and we saw several of these three-legged flags. We learned it is the flag of the Isle of Man, the home of legendary British sprinter, Mark Cavendish. Undoubtedly, the Queen, Prince William and Kate are all Cavendish fans.
Someone else had a theory that the nationalities of fans on the mountain revealed something about how economies are doing. Vacations in France aren’t usually cheap. We saw tons of Norwegians (who went nuts for Team Sky‘s Edvald Boasson Hagen). Norway is definitely not hurting. The UK, the Danes and the Germans have some of Europe’s strongest economies. Then again, it could have something to do with geography and when people have vacation time.
How do Frenchmen celebrate a fellow countryman’s victory on a stage of the Tour? With champagne, bien sûr. We had to hustle to get to the next day’s stage so we didn’t stick around to see if they had thongs.