As the date of the 108th edition of the Tour de France draws near, our shared excitement grows. After what has been an uncertain year and a half for mass events of all kinds, the cycling community breathed a sigh of relief to find out that the Le Grande Boucle is truly happening. The anticipation sends shivers down our spines. So, why is that?
No matter what side of the spectacle you find yourself on, whether a participant or a spectator, the Tour has always been cloaked in a tinge of irresistibility. You feel part of something grand and lasting even when just watching. The event’s magnetic energy is highly contagious.
One could almost liken it to a beautiful circus. The “beasts” in the saddles seem to get most of the attention, but there are many more actors putting the whole show in motion, some more visible than others. The dedicated team and neutral assistance crews in Škoda support cars, the race marshals keeping an eye on the Tour’s action, the race director waving a flag from the famed Velvet Red Škoda SUPERB iV at some stages and the Škoda ENYAQ iV at others, the hundreds of “deckhands” covering everything from catering to route markings – and the tens of thousands of spectators putting the willing work into making the unique atmosphere complete.
The towns and villages en route take great pride in being chosen for the peloton to pass through and they decorate, prepare and welcome all the buzz accordingly – such as the French Nuits-Saint-Georges, which strung its streets with over 400 hand-knitted tiny winner’s jerseys in 2017 when the peloton was due to finish there. The world comes to a stop just to hear the sound of the starting pistol, which sets it running again at a wild speed.
If you are a first-timer at the Tour, nothing can really prepare you for what you are about to experience. You could do your homework and watch hundreds of hours of commentary and footage, read heaps of first-hand articles and blogs, and still fall short of truly grasping the sheer amount of excitement, jaw-dropping moments and the magnitude of what you are going to encounter. Expect beautiful chaos that might make you feel exhausted at the end of the day but will make you unable to actually fall asleep at night due to the anticipation of the next morning.
When a rider falls, we all hurt right alongside them, as was the case with Philippe Gilbert’s scary crash in 2018. When a victorious racer storms the finish, hands in the air with a mix of utter exhaustion and exhilaration on his face, we too feel the butterflies of joy, just like Peter Sagan, known for his finish-line shenanigans. We know you know what we are talking about – that’s why we find ourselves on the sidelines each year, be it in real life or watching at home. It is a three-week emotional wringer for sure, but that’s why we all live for it.
To this year’s beautiful circus—and many more!