Velogal's Blog

Friday, July 08, 2005



We knew it was gonna rain, but did it ever pour the last couple of hours of the stage. And the crowds in Germany were unbelievable. It looked like the Champs Elysees x 2 – miles and miles of shoulder-to-shoulder Tour fans, almost everyone cheering for Jan. And those folks stood right out in the downpour, waving, and grinning when I waved back. I could hardly see the road thru the drenching rain, but there they stood, loving their part of the Tour, rain or shine. All along the rainy route, whether in France or Germany, those die-hard fans didn’t budge from their spot. Many had umbrellas, but many did not – all were laughing and waving vigorously.

I glanced over at the crowd, while waiting for the caravane, and there was this guy with a huge beer belly, who lifted up his tee shirt and flashed me, with a big grin. He had Tour de France in big letters across his chest, and then a whole bunch of writing that I couldn’t read. I’m not sure what else was written there, but he had enough space to list all the winners since the Tour began. He was having a great time with his Belly Billboard…

One village had a huge witch riding a bicycle in the center of the ville, with orange and black balloons. Most villages and towns have all kinds of elaborate bicycle-theme decorations, usually with flowers, veggies or balloons. It’s a really big deal for them to have the Tour pass through – a real source of pride. I saw several guys dressed in Santa Claus outfits, and many orange and green-wigged clowns along the way. The photo of the two guys on that hay bailer was taken while I was stopped in the Caravane line – they were moving the rig into just the right spot for a great view of the peloton passing by.

At the team bus in Karlsruhe, I saw this guy with a Mohawk haircut, and “Lance” written with a marker pen on the shaved sides of his head. I asked him if I could take a photo, and much to my amazement, he had a bit of difficulty understanding me because he was German! In a sea (like tidal wave) of pink T-Mobile German fans, there stood a true-blue Lance fan. I said, “Not Jan?” Nope – he said he admired Lance’s courage on the bike and Lance’s sportsmanship. I'll put the pic up in smugmug.

I was real close to the T-Mobile team bus, and it was just swamped with fans, even more than Lance gets. Next thing I knew, I heard booing and whistling, and a bunch of people had their arms in the air with thumbs down. The bus was pulling out, and I think maybe they were mad about not getting autographs signed. I’m not sure. I heard today that the great, retired German champion, Rudi Altig, said something about being tired of Jan’s excuses.

But I can hardly believe that those fans were booing Jan – they all seem to love him so much. He was really nice and friendly to me the couple of times that I interacted with him – I think he’s a nice guy. I just don’t understand how some folks can turn cycling team loyalty into some kind of hate-fest or war. Every one of these guys works hard, trains hard and suffers more than we could ever, ever know. The riders respect and like each other, but some team fans just take rivalry way too far….

1 Comments:

  • Thanks so much for your updates Velogal! I can't read them until the evenings here in California when I have time to watch my TIVO'd action first. It's hard enough not reading the sports section of the newspaper or listening to sports on TV or the radio. I feel like a monk!

    Have you seen the Nike spot on OLN that shows segments of Lance's press conference when he announced to the world that he had cancer and was prepared to conquer it and return to professional cycling? It's very moving and perhaps one of Nike's best commercials because of the impact when the text reads....Just Do It.

    Go Lance...good luck in the mountains!

    By Anonymous Mark, At 11:15 PM  

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