Cycling fans – Don’t cross the line

The image of Chris Froome running up a mountain without his bike is an image no cycling fan is going to forget for a long long time. While amusing, the circumstances surrounding it were pretty disgraceful and could have been so much worse.

Australia’s Richie Porte rode straight into the back of a motor bike which had to quickly stop to avoid running over members of the crowd who had encroached too far onto the road.

Normally towards the end of a cycling race or at a pivotal place on the course, barriers are erected to ensure that the crowd stays back. The stage on which the Froome incident occurred on was shortened and it appeared that the barriers had not been moved from the original finish to the new finish line. In an event such as this with worldwide media and a viewing audience of millions – how does that happen? Surely Tour de France organisers can do better than that.

Putting that aside, the real issue here is with certain members of the cycling fan base. Watch any cycling event such as the Tour de France and you will see stage after stage, hooligans attempting to run alongside a cyclist and at times appearing to get way too close. If it is TV time that they’re after, there are plenty of other ways to do that without putting the cyclist and their own safety at risk. Put in enough effort in a respectable manner, and you can very easily get some air time. Be creative, don’t be an idiot.

Ask Phil Liggett or Paul Sherwan – the voices of cycling. I’m sure they’d tell you that they would much rather be discussing your cheeky roadside outfit or clever aerial art that can be shown from the helicopter than having to discuss you being taken way in an ambulance because you collided with a cyclist.

You cannot put barriers along the route of the whole race. It just isn’t feasible. Cycling is so great, because you can get so close to the athletes that you are there to see. But there is close, and then there is too close. If you’re touching the cyclist or are at risk of upending them, you’re too close. The same theory can be applied with cameras, mobile phones and any other paraphernalia that has the ability to cause injury.

At the footy if you’re sitting on the fence, you don’t jump the fence to touch the player, nor do you poke them with a selfie stick. The same rules need to be adhered to at cycling events.

Perhaps a blue honour line, much like that used at the Adelaide Christmas Pageant needs to be painted along the route. The crowd is not allowed to cross it, keeping the cyclists safe. Hard to police, but it is a start.

Chris Froome got so frustrated with a roadside fan in this years race, that he punched the fan in the face. And rightly so. Does the world cycling body need to look at issuing fines to people who fail to obey the rules? Over the years we have seen cameras, people and even dogs get in the way of the riders at the Tour de France. The current measures simply are not working.

Ultimately poor behaviour of this kind is hard to police and in the end it is up to the fans themselves to do the right thing. The majority do, but it only takes one to ruin an event or a career. Imagine if Froome or Porte had broken a collarbone and had to forfeit the race? Imagine if the motor bike rider had sustained serious injury or if  someone in the crowd had been run over or bundled onto the ground. What would be the repercussions then?

Cycling fans help make cycling events what they are. Passion and spirit can all be shown in ways that don’t put anybody in harms way. If you really want to be out on the course, sign up for your local cycling club and start cycling!

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