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Tour de France - The Fans!
By Podofdonny
Date: 7/22/2003
Tour de France - The Fans!

Tour Fans

Copyright Marcel Koch

If the Tour is for the fans, the fans make the Tour!

Can you imagine the Alpe d’Huez having the same drama and theatrical impact if the crowd amounted to 5 spectators huddled around the finishing line?

Of course, traditionally many of the fans who line the Alpe are from Holland, who make their annual pilgrimage to the mountain which has seen so many Dutch winners in the past.

Naturally Marcel Koch, webmaster of the Michael Boogerd fan club was there (To visit his site click here) even though the Rabobank team has been having a torrid time in the Tour so far as Marcel commented after Stage One -

Today's stage ended in disaster for Levi Leipheimer and Marc Lotz. They crashed along with 30 other riders in the sprint with 500m to go. It was later confirmed that Levi had broken a bone in his lower back and couldn't start tomorrow. Lotz was also taken to hospital. Doctors found that his eye is badly hurt and it is certain that he will leave the Tour too.

However, win or lose these fans that line the route are as much of the tradition in the race as the yellow jersey and the epic days in the mountains. The next photograph perfectly illustrates this point; observe the father pointing out to his young son in the green jersey the “giants of the road” as they pass!

Copyright Marcel Koch

Another feature of the race is of course the roadside messages painted by fans. This tradition calls for much dedication and early rising -

Copyright Marcel Koch

Ultimately the Tour is a celebration of cycling for fans of all nations to cheer on their heroes and drink in the atmosphere which they themselves create -

"But to say that the race is the metaphor for the life is to miss the point. The race is everything. It obliterates whatever isn't racing. Life is the metaphor for the race."

--Donald Antrim

Copyright Marcel Koch

Gilberto Simoni took time out to thank his fans following his stage victory

Simoni has his day of glory in the Pyrenees

“This joy pays me back for all the suffering”

Gilberto Simoni’s day arrived at last. After a long wait which many people thought would never end in the 2003 Tour de France, the Saeco captain finally tasted the joy of a stage victory after days of suffering and disappointment. Two weeks had gone by since the prologue in Paris- where Simoni had given an exciting example of what he could do. Unfortunately there was also the disappointment of the team time trial -a bad day for Simoni and all his Saeco team mates.

Simoni carried the disappointment on his shoulders over all the mountain climbs of the Alps, where his non-perfect form was cruelly revealed.

The suffering lasted for days with the signs of tiredness and stress clearly visible and yet Simoni did not want to give up. not bothered about the time he lost, Simoni carried on, convinced that one day things would go his way. That day arrived on Sunday to Loudenvielle in the Pyrenees.

The second Pyrenean stage from Saint Girons to Loudenvielle-Le Louron was one long attack. The action started after just a few kilometres and turned into an elimination race right up to the last climb, the Perysourde, where Gilberto found himself with Richard Virenque and Laurent Dufaux.

The stage victory was all thanks to Simonis perfect ride. He dominated the sprint and let out a shout of joy. “I almost can’t believe I’ve won, he said after crossing the line. I’ve suffered all day but felt better on the final climb.”

“I think I’ve shown an incredible amount of determination. This Tour has taught me a lot. I’m happy to have carried on, even against the advice of my directeur sportifs, so that I finally get this win. I won’t forget the cheers of the people who have supported me during this long journey of suffering. Thanks everybody, you were all fantastic."

Copyright Saeco

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