At the Races #9: Party Crew
The party crew might just be the most fundamental expression of cycling spectatorship. They’re the 2×3 LEGO piece of cycling fandom, a ubiquitous and necessary feature whose absence from any race is grounds to call into question the validity of the race itself. No matter where in the world a race takes place, you’ll find these packs of revelers drinking in all that the sporting life has to offer. It isn’t necessary for all the members of the crew to appreciate or even understand how cycling works; operating a functional Party Crew only takes one with knowledge of what part of the day’s stage or what leg of the crit will be interesting to watch (and therefore where the Crew should establish camp). Once a location has been secured, the crew can confidently begin its rituals.
As we all know, Professional Road Racing takes a while. Be it a criterium or a grand tour stage, it usually comes down to attrition, and when you put a group of exceptionally fit people together, attrition can take some time. For spectators, and to the Party Crew’s advantage in particular, this means there is an extended amount of time to get comfortable with spectating. The largesse of time enables an investment in a this is all I am doing with my day type of attitude. What we have here is freedom from the tyranny of plans and a strong opportunity to get familiar with their location and contents of their cooler.In any Party Crew the cooler tends to act as an anchor, the gravitational center around which the Crew members behave as celestial bodies: orbiting, dodging, weaving, and plodding—but never truly escaping its pull.”- MFS
Yes it is full of beer, booze, and whatever regional snacks go with drinking; it is a treasure chest filled with good feelings, with boldness, with inhibition, it is filled with the fuel necessary to take the enthusiastic fan to new heights, it is filled with what’s needed to power vuvuzelas and megaphones, it is how a middle manager at dairy plant strips down to their underwear, dons a luchador mask, and runs wind sprints up the steepest part of the climb while yelling nonsensical but decidedly affirmative commands at the passing peloton.
True, some of the crew might not make take part a final physical ritual as brash and performative. Their cooler may have been ill-prepared, lacking enough fuel to remove the final shackles of prudish civility. Or perhaps they mis-timed the arrival of the peloton and went to deep into the cooler’s powerful elixir to soon? In the business this is called a learning opportunity.
So the Party Crew lines the edge of the road and packs the KOMs ad nauseum, they encourage the peloton with boisterous and sometimes questionable comments, and they encourage their fellow fans in the same way.11The Party Crew’s messaging, of course, is not for everyone. Their voice and energy is an essential part of the spectacle.
AT THE RACES is a study of the more ubiquitous or “prevalent” types of chillers found spectating PRRs on any given day, at any given race. To help us properly identify and catalog chillers, Manual for Speed commissioned world renowned interpretive illustrator and dog walker Thomas Slater. Thomas holds a Ph.D. in Contemporary Human Taxonomy from Oxford and has been supporting his family as a commercial illustrator since the age of 7. His recent work titled Gran Fondo’ler (Confessions of a Cycling Enthusiast) is currently being considered for a solo show at the Tate.