This year’s edition of the Giro d’Italia is drawing to a close, with all the drama, twists and turns, crashes, highs and lows that we’ve almost become accustomed to the race delivering at this point. Every year, it’s a joy. One thing that has been standing out to me recently, above all, is how fortunate we are, as cycling fans, that our cherished sport takes place in such a variety of beautiful places around the world. We’re sitting here watching the best athletes in the world compete and sometimes it feels like watching a travel documentary, in the very best of ways.
So many other sports are confined to a small arena, a pitch, even a cage in some cases, always surrounded by metal, concrete, flashing lights and gaudy screens. This makes sense with football or rugby or hockey – you want the fans to be able to get as close as they can to pitch-side to experience the game in as vivid a way as possible. Not so with cycling. A real luxury we have as we watch our favourite sport is that we are transported, every time, to another place in the world. Rolling hills, long climbs, valleys, beautiful views all around as the best in the word do what they do best. Any stadium or arena, for all intents and purposes, could be anywhere in the world, for all the variety the inside of one brings. Every so often, something breaks the mould, like Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban, South Africa, with its open end and harbour views, or Mexican Football Team Monterrey’s home ground sitting in the shadow of a beautiful green mountain but, for the most part, it is grey concrete, parking garages and train stations. Industry. It lacks a little “soul.”
This year alone in Italy, however, we’ve ridden along stunning coastline, up mountains and through rolling green hills. The difference is stark. You still get that buzz from the crowd in an elongated sense, with people’s homes and town centres trimming the racecourse, providing that fan element, only with a more personal touch. People display banners, set up their own outdoor seating by the roadside and watch the race on the TV as the riders fly past. We’ve seen some hang out rider jerseys on the washing line. Its inventive. Instead of having their expression confined to a single seat, far more of the local culture is injected into the support. It’s vibrant and creative and a joy to behold.
When you watch road cycling events, do you focus more on the sport itself or are you, like many, drawn into the beauty of the country through which we are journeying?