This is what I love about the Tour de France.
In what other major sporting event do you find the competitors rubbing up against semi-drunk, almost-naked, enthusiastic, male spectators? Imagine Lebron James heading in for a layup and having to weave around a dude like this guy Vincenzo Nibali had to deal with in the Pyrenees the other day. Or Rafael Nadal retrieving a smash down the line and having to dodge a fat bastard in a speedo. Bicycle racing in Europe, and the Tour especially, is unique in the sports world in this regard. No fences, no barriers protecting athletes from the crazy fans. It’s all freestyle, fans and athletes figuring out how to co-exist on the roads. It's wild. And I hope it never changes.
Nibali’s command of this year’s race has been so complete that gonch-guy here may well have offered the most serious challenge to the yellow jersey. It takes some technical skill for a rider to negotiate obstacles like this: Watch out for the ass crack. Don’t get tangled up in the back hair. Keep your eyes on the road and away from the man-thong. Lots could go wrong here. I love the concentration in both men’s eyes. They’re both in the zone, as they say. And Nibali’s gentle hand gesture says, “Hey, Naked Guy, I respect how you roll, but make a little room.”
North American bicycle racing has grown tremendously in the last decade. Professional races like the Tour of California, the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, and even our own Tour of Alberta, are drawing bigger and bigger crowds. But in order for bike-racing culture to really blossom on this side of the Atlantic, for it to be taken seriously in the broader cycling world, we will need way more nearly naked dudes like this at these events.