Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.

7.06.2006

It's FANtastic!

The Tour de France prides itself in being one of the most spectator friendly events in all of athletics. Except for barriers in the last couple of kilometers, the fans are allowed to line the road and get close enough to touch the riders. They scramble for discarded water bottles as souvenirs, run alongside their idols for short periods, dress in silly costumes (or not, as there is the occassional streaker), and have all kinds of intimate fun. An example from a recent stage:
Valkenburg mayor Constant Nuytens expects at least 400,000 people from the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium to come to the streets and watch the event, but on the sides of the Cauberg main street climb, only 40,000 fans will be admitted.

"Entrance is free, of course, but once it's full, it's full," said Nuytens. The Cauberg will also feature two VIP-tribunes and four still cameras, and there is no space for camper vans like there is in the Alps or the Pyrenees. Dutch railways have increased up the amount of trains going into Valkenburg to 12 per hour for today, in comparison to two per hour normally.

The Tour de France visits Valkenburg for the second time in its history: in 1992, 600,000 people gathered to watch the race on the roadside. With beautiful weather announced for today's stage 3, and temperatures expected to rise well above 30° Celsius, the streets will be packed, many fans hoping to see Michael Boogerd or Erik Dekker win on home soil.
And those numbers are only for the spectators in the final city of the day, and don't include everyone lining the road for the preceding 150 miles of the stage. Of course, the intimacy can always create problems. One of the often used bits of video shows Lance Armstrong taking a spill at the bottom of an important climb as his handlebars get hooked in a spectator's purse strap. He's also talked about using as motivation to beat Ullrich's T-mobile team the fact that so many German fans were screaming and spitting in his face during the time trial on Alpe d'Huez. Now from this year's Tour there have been a few incidents like this:
Sandy Casar (Française des Jeux) finished 137th in yesterday's third stage after being taken out by a drunken spectator at the foot of the Cauberg. The spectator then got into an argument with Casar's DS Marc Madiot, while others tried to steal the Frenchman's wheels.
And this:
On Sunday evening, after the hectic "sprint royal" finale of stage two in which prologue winner Thor Hushovd was thought to have hit a plastic cardboard hand which cut deep into his upper arm, the Tour de France organisation has announced that it will prohibit the use of the marketing giveaways in the last two kilometres of flat stages.

Certainly, fans leaning over the barriers and waving the objects pose another threat in the sprint finishes, which are already very dangerous. Other objects such as still or video cameras should not be held over the barriers either, as they represent the same risk. [There is actually some doubt over whether it was a PMU hand or another object, like a camera, that cut Thor Hushovd's arm - ed.]

Hushovd alright

Crédit Agricole's Thor Hushovd, who suffered a cut on his right upper arm in the finale of stage 1, has received several stitches to his wound in a Strasbourg hospital. He was able to leave the clinic at 19.00 in the evening. "Thor lost a lot of blood," said his DS Roger Legeay. "It was a terrible sight. The cut itself isn't that bad though. The doctors said that he would suffer more from the contusion, though. He won't feel so well in the next 5 or 6 days during the race." But fortunately, the Norwegian rider will be able to continue the Tour de France.
Still, the fan interaction is awfully unique and worth a few little problems. These links go to pictures that will give you a better idea what I am talking about:

Aggressive Spanish Basque fans get in Lance's face

This guy got in the way of a patrolling motorbike

A nice photo essay from a tourist

This guy's getting support

Another photo essay

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