At the Races: Tour de France Fan Edition
When Soigneur Magazine commissioned us to create a profile of four individuals that make the Tour de France the most prestigious and remarkable cycling race ever, we decided to feature four TDF Fans.
Manual for Speed believes that Road Cycling is the Greatest Spectacle on Earth.
We believe this for so many reasons, but here are four of our favorites:
- Unequivocal unparalleled athleticism.
- Cycling’s legendary, nearly-magical, quasi-mythical, vaulted & exalted history.
- The atmosphere. The sensory overload that is the constellation of team presentations, cobbled start plazas, start/finish discotheques, costumes, kit, the caravan, gadgeta flying through the air, the endless assault of car horns and clappers and AM/FM transistor radios and yelling and screaming and cheering and ALLEZ ALLEZ ALLEZ-ing, the mountains, the mountain top villages! the switchbacks!!, helicopters, feed zones, Jumbotrons, beer gardens, the sea of banners and flags and pennants and homemade fanboy t-shirts and paraphernalia, painted cars, color coordinated headwear, et cetera et cetera.
- The people; the racers, soigneurs, DSs, mechanics, marshals, volunteers, gendarmes, TV moto operators, announcers and, most importantly, the fans who are the actors and the players in this the Greatest Spectacle on Earth.
In fact it’s for that reason, that fourth reason, that we (Manual For Speed) created a study we call At the Races. At the Races is a collection of all the people—individuals, prototypes, archetypes, etc— we’ve found, documented and cataloged at bicycle races over the last five years.
With that in mind, when Soigneur Magazine commissioned us to create a profile of four individuals that make the Tour de France the most prestigious and remarkable cycling race ever, we decided to feature four TDF Fans because:
- The Tour de France is the single greatest race in the world. Cycling or otherwise.
- It’s 23 days long.
- It happens in France.
- France is in the middle of Europe.
- The TDF is a European institution and icon.
- The TDF represents a pilgrimage for thousands if not millions of fans from AROUND THE WORLD.
- The French picnic better than anyone in the world, except maybe Argentines.
- The TDF is a remarkable feat in terms of organization, engineering and coordination.
- The greatest cyclists and cycling teams compete in the TDF.
- It’s the most prestigious race in the world. Cycling or otherwise.
- It’s basically an annual Olympics for bikes.
- Cameras mounted on motorcycles and helicopters record EVERYTHING that happens.
- It draws, inspires, prompts, demands, cajoles and coaxes Fans from everywhere on earth to bring their A-game.
- It’s basically an annual Olympics for fans of bikes. TDF fans are the best of the best, the crème de la crème.
II German Techno Couple; Swimsuit Edition
Germany is known around the world for three things:
- Bad Techno Music
Now, some might argue that there are other things out there but guess what? We took a poll and the poll said the top three consists of precision, beer and bad techno music. And polls can’t lie.
Precision runs through all aspects of German life; it’s easily identified in their factories, automobiles and machinery. Beer?, they love the stuff: steins and beer halls, Oktoberfest and weekends, weekdays, mornings, nights, afternoons, church, sports, school events, etc. all of our research tells us—unequivocally—that Germans love beer. And it is the Germans who have unleashed the unstoppable crusade of Bad Techno upon the world, drilling our ears and our emotions with an seemingly never-ending amount of high-energy and high-tempo syncopated BPM.
Yet it takes something special to see all three of these disparate and incongruent characteristics in one place. Thankfully, the world has been blessed with the Tour de France.
They are magnificent in appearance, displaying deep amaretto tans, a seal-esque lack of body hair, and the robust musculature of lapsed CrossFitters.
But elegant costuming is nothing without bravado, and our actors know their roles. It is on the side of Alpe d’Huez, in the dizzying alpine heat, that Hansel and Gretel will perform their unique ritual of dance and debauchery in service to the TDF. Their morning surely begins with a smorgasbord of beers, high-protein sausages and ecstasy—only then do our Germans have the ability to reach their full potential. And as they jump, hop, bounce, and skip—all the while hands pumping, all the while clapping with unabashed enthusiasm—they come to the moment when the peloton races past. It is no accident that they happen peak just as they encounter the race (or rather the race encounters them), such is the indelible imprint of their precision heritage, such is the intoxicating effects of their beer, such is the hypnotic pulsing of their Bad Techno. The rest of us are in awe as these addled dervishes meet the raw power of the peloton with their own untempered display of enthusiasm. They are here to not to witness the spectacle of the race, they are here to join it.
III Clément, Trackstand World Champion
This ATR:TDFFE is unique because we’re featuring an actual individual person, Clément Leroy, who is ALSO a Fan archetype. But in this case the archetype “part” is far less interesting than the wonderful human being that is Clément, who we met and spoke with in the town of Vannes, France during the Team Time Trial at Stage Nine of the 2015 Tour de France. Anyway, it’s our opinion that for now, all you need to know about Clément and why Clément is such an exemplary cycling Fan can be addressed in two points.
Point One: The Facts
- This dude is a fan of the Tour de France. We found him track-standing on the side of the road, with everyone else, watching the race come past.
- Clément might go to other races, but he DEFINITELY goes to the Tour de France.
- Look at this photograph!, he is nothing if not a character.
- Characters make it interesting. Ergo, Clément directly and, in our opinion, substantially, contributed to an increased “interest” factor. Bike racing needs that.
- Nobody else can track-stand as long as he can. He has a title to support that claim. Clément is a Track Stand World Champion.
Point Two: This Video
First of all, right away, you learn that Clément is the 2013 Trackstand World Champion. We don’t “want” to say we told you so, but we told you so. Also, maybe you’re no Jamie Foxx but right away you should, we hope, recognize Creator (Vs. Switch and Ferq Nasty) by Santigold, which means no matter what happens over the course of the next 2:35 minutes, no matter how boring it might be, it’s going to sound good. Also, leather helmet. And then just like that, we see Clément not only trackstanding in a variety of environments, he’s also juggling. Can you trackstand? Can you juggle? Can you juggle-stand? We didn’t think so. Then he throws a foot over the bars, and the other foot too. Next he’s on a ping pong table in front of hundreds of kids. We see him in living rooms, class rooms, hospital rooms, all the rooms. In front of a charcuterie, in an old folks home, in a chippie, in front of the entrance to a cave. There is NOWHERE and NOBODY for whom Clément can’t and/or won’t perform a juggle-stand demonstration.
Apparently, the first half the of the video is Clément performing his act in the homes and businesses of France, while the second half the of the video is Clement talking about an upcoming European tour in which he intends to take his act to fifteen different countries including but not limited to; Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Estonia, Austria and Switzerland.
All of which leads you to this.
- Clément is a Fan of the Tour de France.
- Manual for Speed is a Fan of the Tour de France
- Soigneur is a Fan of the Tour de France.
- Soigneur is (also) a Fan of Manual for Speed.
- Manual for Speed is, it turns out, (also) a Fan of Soigneur.
- You are a Fan of Soigneur .
- Now you are a Fan of Manual for Speed.
- Now we are all Fans of Clément.
IV Costumed Couples in Matching Attire
It is a point of biological fact that unity, matching, coordination, and mimicry are powerful and effective tools in the global struggle that is evolution. Consider animals, for example the black Labrador, they all—ALL—dress the same. Every black Labrador you’ve ever seen is wearing the same costume: a black fur coat. Its black coat is so much a part of its identity that if it wears anything else then it’s called something else like a yellow Labrador, brown Labrador, Dalmatian, or pug. This is not unique to dogs! Consider tigers, squirrels, blue whales, carpenter ants, slugs, manatees, skunks, etc.—the list goes on and on. And the reason that the list goes on and on is that nature has found out that if you match, if you coordinate, then you survive. And if you survive then you can make an impact on your environment. And if you make an impact on your environment then you get attention and attention means that the camera operator hunkered down in the helicopter flying low over the Alps looking for b-roll to add to today’s TDF coverage will be drawn to you, to your coordination, and that you will then be featured on TV screens throughout the world, and thus your friends and family and even strangers back home will see you, cycling fans will envy you, and other photographers/videographers/journalists will be drawn to you.
If the effectiveness of coordination is so obvious why doesn’t everyone do it? Well, coordination as a attention device in the human social theater isn’t as straightforward as it is in the rest of the animal kingdom. Human actors need to consider various factors before deciding to coordinate, the most important of which being the ratio of coordinated to un-coordinated elements. For example, if a couple shows up coordinated while the rest of the group is uncoordinated, the pair risks the scorn of the group. On the other hand, if the couple shows up coordinated to a situation packed with coordinated pairs, then the effect of the coordination is nullified. Zergev and Thomas, in their landmark study on Pair Coordination in hyper-socio environments, note that, “When given an option to coordinate, pairs must consider X = the number of other individuals in the HSE, Y= the estimated number of coordinated pairs in the HSE. If Y/X is < or = .15 then Coordination Pairs can assume a positive response from their coordination. If Y/X is between .15 and .2 then there is only a 50% chance of a positive response and anything higher than .2 will elicit a negative response.”
So there is risk involved when deciding whether to coordinate. However, in mass spectacle events such as the TDF, the number of actors renders Zergev and Thomas’ observation null and void. The mass spectacle event is a safe space for coordinated pairs regardless of context, a space where they can shine, a space where they can WOW. As such, the TDF is rife for observing and identifying coordinated pairs. And this is yet another reason why this race is considered the greatest sporting spectacle in the world.
Thomas, Vance Ph.d. and Zergev, Angela Ph.d., “Humans, Coordination, and Winning Society” – Atlantic Peacock Press 2007
V THE CARAVAN
You want to get people hyped? You want to get people frothing and on the verge of hysterics? You want to get a crowd, a group of enthusiasts, or a mountainside road lined with fans completely out of their minds? There is one sure fire trick: you give them free stuff. Candy, socks, tiny flags, inflatable noise makers, vuvuzelas, water bottles, stuffed animals, chocolates, etc. What you want to do is create a parade of devices that vomit free stuff into the crowd. We call this “chumming the waters,” and if you’ve spent any time watching Shark Week you’d totally get what we mean.
In any Le Tour stage, but especially the climbing stages, the people who line the road have been waiting for a long time. Before the race arrives they will have been standing, reclining, leaning, and pacing up and down the side of the road for hours; it’s no wonder, then, that over time their enthusiasm flags. Between the time they arrived in the pre-dawn light, slowly lumbering up the above category roads in their RVs and Estates, and the arrival of the peloton, even the most spirited fans do not have the energy to maintain the necessary output of enthusiasm. Thankfully Le Tour founders were not blind to this fluctuation of interest. After all, they were newspaper men come of age in the Hearst-ian era. They understood perfectly well that if the necessary enthusiasm was unavailable then it could and should be manufactured. What’s more, manufactured enthusiasm would turn out to be very very profitable.
It is hype incarnate: each float/vehicle/display with its own ringmaster, each one trying to out-hype the rest. Their goal is to make an impression, to imbue upon the now stimulated masses gathered along the roadside with a distinctly positive and memorable recollection of their presentation, and as a result, of their brand. The fans, on the other hand, are entreated to float after truck after candy gun after blasting horn after confetti spraying after dancers on rooftops action, all of which serves to drive them into a frenzy just as the peloton approaches. Tit for tat, quid pro quo, the caravan is, at its foundation, a hype-machine with a job to do, a job that’s integral to the ecosystem of Le Tour.