If you’ve been paying the slightest bit of attention to the Tour thus far, you’ve noticed the all-encompassing swell of crowds along the English roadside. Sure, it’s been impressive, and at times deafening, but it’s also yielded some stern warnings from the peloton, caused numerous crashes, and oddly enough, inspired a complete and utter damnation of selfies — praise to this simply on principle. In all, though, the swarming mass of irresponsible behavior should be viewed as less than alarming, especially from a country where hooliganism is nearly passable as a recognized sport. Surely, there must be a common thread. Let’s think, what’s the leading component to both hooliganism and crowds behaving badly in the UK? Being completely pissed, of course. Well, that and maybe Cock Sparrer.
This isn’t to say that the UK wins the lion’s share of wasted, over-eager fans, though. After all, this year’s Zoncolan stage produced more shit-show scenarios and tempest pro moments then we’ve seen in years.
Regardless, though, alcohol and cycling have long been stable mates, but if this year has taught us anything, alcohol, cycling, and technology simply do not mix. My advice: If you’re going to take a picture, face the oncoming traffic.
For those of us left at home, however, the British invasion delivered the full Monty’s worth of paparazzi trash rag material, from the Royal Family to passing through the hometown of TOWIE, Essex.
All bases were covered. But on the bright side of things, the UK truly delivered on some awesome stage profiles that seemed to always be undulating. Stage One delivered three categorized climbs, with a raucous crowd along the Buttertubs Pass. The sprint lead out was epic, and with, quite possibly, the last sprinter’s Maillot Jaune for a few years up for grabs, disaster seemed inevitable. Sadly, depending which side of the fence you’re on, the resulting crash left Cav out of the race for the first time since 2007.
Stage Two turned out to be predictably epic, with the Young Americans proving themselves as a force to be reckoned with. Garmin was at the front for much of the day, and Tejay’s response to Froome’s attack on Jenkin Road appeared as the most on-point retort from the GC bunch. And, thankfully, the stage resulted in one of the most awkward, cringe-worthy podium moments in recent memory.
Well, it was almost the most cringe-worthy, just look & listen to what waiting crowds were being subjected to on Jenkin Road. What year is it anyways?
Stage Three was equally awesome, but with Kittel’s domination in Cavendish’s absence, it asked an earnest question: with Cavendish out, who’s left to even remotely contest Kittel in the sprints? Personally, I was routing for Renshaw, but with Bouhanni left off of the roster, there’s a gap to be filled. Sagan is anything but a pure sprinter, even though he’s the shoe-in for the Points jersey in Paris. And with Movistar being left to support Valverde for the GC, Rojas will most likely find himself without a proper lead out. To me, this really only leaves three obvious choices, albeit two of them are poor ones, and that’s Greipel, Van Poppel, and Couqard. In my opinion, though, 2014 is going to be for Kittel as 2007 was for Cavendish — there really isn’t anyone who can touch him.
Tomorrow is the first day on French soil, and as Riis told Velonews, “It will be different in France, the French fans know cycling.” Crowd antics probably won’t reveal themselves again till Bastille Day, leaving us with clean, somewhat drama-free bike racing. And from a fan’s perspective, Stage Five is going to be awesome. We’ve already seen that Cancellara is more than willing to flex a sneaky muscle or two from the final kilometer of Stage One, and given Van Avermaet’s impressive Stage Two performance, it’s easy to say that the cobbles of Arenberg are going to be grounds for a selective attack.
Want to read more about the race? Check in with our Facebook to learn more about the upcoming stage profiles, or signup for our emails to get them delivered to you every morning of the race.