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SBD Global/July 22, 2013/Events and Attractions

Lack Of Rules For Fans Watching Tour De France Makes Event Unique, Well-Attended

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Cyclists pass fan El Diablo, left, on the final climb of stage eighteen of the 2013 Tour de France.
This "is the Tour de France, and each year millions of spectators -- no one knows the exact number -- line the hundreds of miles of roadway to cheer, a teeming sea of ridiculous costumes, waving flags and boozy enthusiasm that is nearly as big a part of the race as the racers themselves," according to James Dao of the N.Y. TIMES. The stadium was packed again Friday as tens of thousands "lined the rain-soaked roads near the Alpine resort town to see Rui Costa, a Portuguese rider with Movistar, win his second stage of the Tour after a long breakaway." As riders exited the course at the end of the race, "they were mobbed by fans asking for autographs or trying to take photographs." That sort of intimacy "is what draws many fans to the Tour and makes them willing to sit for hours in lawn chairs along dusty roads or camp for days on mountainsides for the chance to watch riders speed by in all of 20 seconds." There are "virtually no rules" governing spectator behavior at the Tour. There are barriers at "a few important spots, including the start, finish, midcourse sprints and some urban areas." But almost everywhere else, fans are "free to roam." An "unwritten code of ethics might look like this: keep small children in hand and animals on a leash." Touching riders is "frowned upon but allowed." Causing them to crash "is bad." To a "remarkable degree, the rules are followed." To Tour novices, particularly Americans, the behavior of fans is "mind-boggling." Kate Phillips, 45, said, "This just could not happen in the States. Americans are so cautious. They would have barriers everywhere" (N.Y. TIMES, 7/20).
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