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The one thing that separates cycling from all other sports is the fact that it is free to watch at the highest level.  Imagine turning up at the World Cup Final and watching the match with your camper van and BBQ at the side of the pitch.  Or standing on a hill overlooking the Superbowl with a few beers and your mates watching the game unfold.  Or walking into the Augusta National with a pair of shorts and a vest on the final round of the Masters.

You can’t.

But that’s exactly what you can do at every single cycling World Tour event.  And that is why cycling is by far and above, the most inclusive and remarkable global sport.
But we crossed a line at this year’s Tour de France.  On Bastille Day, stage 12 finished on the legendary Mont Ventoux but the fans shamed the mountain by not allowing it and it alone to influence the outcome of the race.  Some blame the number of motorbikes, some blame the fact that the shortened stage meant more people on a smaller area.  But let’s think about cause and effect.

The CAUSE was fans standing on the roads and not moving away sufficiently.

The EFFECT was motorbikes not being able to get through and the trio of Balka Mollema (Trek Segafredo), Richie Porte (BMC) and Chris Froome (Sky) ploughing into a motorbike, losing their leading margin on the peloton and the wearer of the yellow jersey left with no option but to run.

And earlier on in the stage, the riders had to deal with this.


What did the guy think when he woke up? “I know what I’m going to do today.  I’m going to watch the Tour de France and when I’m there, I’m going to set off my special red flare right in front of the riders as they pass me.  That will be awesome and everyone will think I’m so cool and oh my god, I may even get laid with a real woman.”  And so he got up, scratched his crotch, gave his mountain goat a kiss and left his cave to walk to Mont Ventoux.
Or this guy?

OK, this was from a few years ago but the same question has to be put to him – why?

If either of these situations arose in any other event and I mean ANY other event, then they would be quickly accosted by the local police, spend a night in the cells and be charged with a criminal offence.

Just last month, the Croatia v Czech Republic Euro 2016 match was interrupted and players taken off the pitch when a flare was thrown onto the pitch.

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Next we see hordes of police and stewards running into the crowds and grabbing various “fans”.

But not in cycling.  No, it’s just one of those crazy cycling fans having a laugh and keeping things interesting.

And before all you ladies shake your heads at these sad guys, you may want to know that it’s not a gender specific issue, oh no.

Look at the euphoria on her face as she runs next to Tom Danielson a few years ago.  Wow, she’s amazing.


Or this clown?


“Hi mom, I’m at the Tour de France, and if you go on TV right now you’ll see me.  Yes, that’s me.  Look at me, I’m right next to the guy in yellow.  OH MY GOD mom, he actually just bumped into me and I dropped my phone.  I’m going to sue his ass.”

But we don’t want barriers lining the routes and we don’t want rows of police either.  The volume of fans makes it extremely difficult for either of these options to be deemed as valid.  What about self-policing?  Well, it can work too.

So let’s have a bit of everything.

Some stronger policing.

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A few rider interventions.

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Bernard Hinault – Paris-Nice 1984

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jan Raas – Tour of Flanders 1985

And finally, some self-policing.

Because we still want to see some of the clowns, we still want to witness a little madness, we certainly want cycling to remain the biggest sporting spectacle on Earth and we definitely want it to be free.

“The best things in life are free” – Luther Vandross & Janet Jackson.

The Giant.