Manual For Speed At The Races, TdF edition #4
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 favorite.
- Unequivocal unparalleled athleticism.
- Cycling’s legendary, nearly magical, quasi mythical, vaulted and 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, marshalls, 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;
1. The Tour De France is the single greatest race in the world. Cycling or otherwise.
2. It’s 23 days long.
3. It happens in France.
4. France is in the middle of Europe.
5. The TDF is a European institution and icon.
6. The TDF represents a pilgrimage for thousands if not millions of fans from AROUND THE WORLD.
7. The French picnic better than anyone in the world, except maybe Argentines.
8. The TDF is a remarkable feat in terms organizational, engineering and coordination.
9. The greatest cyclists and cycling teams compete in the TDF.
10. It’s the most prestigious race in the world. Cycling or otherwise.
11. It’s basically an annual olympics for bikes.
12. Cameras mounted on motorcycles and helicopters record EVERYTHING that happens.
13. It draws, inspires, prompts, demands, cajoles and coaxes Fans from everywhere on earth to bring their A-game.
14. It’s basically an annual olympics for fans of bikes. TDF fans are the best of the best, the creme dela creme.
AT THE RACES, TOUR DE FRANCE FAN EDITION #4: THE CARAVAN
Nationality: We’re going to have to pin this one on France.
Costuming: Notable attire includes various cosplay costumes of the barnyard variety; chickens, roosters, sheep, cows, goats, etc. These costumes are then festooned with logos and words and backed by bright and vibrant colors. But the caravan isn’t limited to individuals. The vehicles themselves play a key role and are dressed up in all manner of whimsical attire, as such the caravan does it’s best impression of a Miyazaki parade as it crawls up the flanks of mountains.
Special Powers: The ability to capture the imagination and Euro’s of an entire crowd of people. Creating personality for otherwise soulless corporations. Effecting a party atmosphere with noise, color, and sound while announcing the imminent arrival of the peloton.
Natural Habitat: Strictly limited to the roads and staging areas of the the Tour de France. When observed outside of this area it is understood that the caravan is off the clock and shouldn’t not be expected to behave with dignity or professionalism.
If you want to get people hyped? If you want to get people frothing and on the verge of hysterics? If you want to get a crowd, a group of enthusiasts, or 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 RV’s 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 the 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 not available then it could and should be manufactured. What’s more, manufactured enthusiasm would turn out to be very very profitable.
Enter the Caravan, a nearly endless dream stream of a tricks, treats, energy, and hype. The caravan is a trade show dressed up in a carnival masquerading as a parade. It is hype incarnate, each float/vehicle/display with its own ringmaster, and 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 float after truck after candy gun after horn blasting after confetti spraying after dancers on rooftops action all of which serve 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 and one that is integral to the ecosystem of Le Tour.