When you look at the routes of the Tour, the Giro, the Vuelta and every other race, however small, one wonders – as a famous journalist once did – whether the real performance in cycling is given by the cyclists or the fans, or both equally.
People flock to the side of the road long before the professionals appear at the starting line. As a result, the great celebration of waiting begins in the early morning, turning every time into a memorable folk celebration.
After all, the wait is not just about seeing the best cyclists race by, but also about encouraging those lagging behind, who are driven on by the cheers (and more besides) of the people, and about hurling hurrahs at the caravan, often made up of past cycling heroes who are shown the same enthusiasm as the participants. For cycling, above all other sports, succeeds in reviving, through the loyal support of the fans, the extraordinary exploits of the world’s greatest cyclists.
Thus, the most memorable images of the 2023 World Tour relate not to the greatest leads on the toughest climbs, but to the farewell to Thibaut Pinot. What happened on the roads of the Col du Petit Ballon during the Tour de France and the Giro di Lombardia is, as the French say, “au coeur d’un hommage irréel”. The fan’s extraordinary show of affection is the most genuine manifestation of what cycling has represented and – in light of the enthusiastic tribute to Thibaut – continues to represent.
“What happened at the Giro di Lombardia is truly incredible. I couldn’t even work on a racing strategy because it was a continuous, mobile party. There could be no better way to celebrate my farewell to cycling.”
These are the most unforgettable moments of cycling: when the public and the rider enter into perfect symbiosis and empathy.
“In no other sport is this intensity even remotely possible. After all, you don’t have to pay to watch the cyclists race by. It's easy to identify with us. This is precisely why cycling has always been and continues to be an incredible, never-ending party.”
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