Colorful characters have been a part of bike racing for as long as I’ve been visiting races. But they used to be on the rare side. While I can’t say they are the rule, they are anything but uncommon at the Amgen Tour of California. In one 300-meter stretch of Mulholland Highway, I saw more costumed fans than I have in any two days of the Tour de France. If I didn’t know better, I might have thought a Halloween party was running long. Many photographers composed their shots to include these fans.

This centurion was asking around for the pope (check yesterday’s post) because he wanted to be blessed.

Adam and Eve, sorta.

Spectators called this fan Borat. Though sunny, it wasn’t warm; comfort must not have been a concern.

The woman on the right is dressed as a hand. When she turned around you could see white fingernails. What her connection to a banana and a beer keg is anyone’s guess.

I can’t say this guy rode this high wheeler all the way up the climb, but I did see him ride into and out of view. I also saw him riding back down the climb.

When I first saw this fellow something about his corduroy suit and shaggy handlebar mustache seemed out of place, at least, with this crowd. When I saw Jesus in the road, he began to make more sense.



  1. Sophrosune

    I was watching the Giro yesterday and I saw this big guy running directly behind Basso and I thought he looked kind of like Dario Pegoretti. Take a look you’ll see what I mean about 20 seconds into the clip. Probably isn’t him but it seemed like it was for a moment.

  2. Touriste-Routier

    It couldn’t be Dario; there was no cigarette in his hand 😉

    Honestly I am perplexed by the whole costume and running along side the riders thing. Has our world gotten so interactive, that it is no longer possible to just be appreciative spectators standing along the side of the road? Do we have to be “part” of the action”? Do these people really think they are doing the riders any favors by getting so close? Cheering your head off from the side- motivating; running along side and screaming in their faces- must be distracting at some level.

    I am just waiting for one of these knuckleheads to take one of their heroes down. Or for a rider to “snap” and put one of the fanatics down (like Armstrong did to the syringe devil last year during the ToC); that was a great moment!

  3. donncha

    Most of them are afflicted with that particularly 21st Century malaise of just wanting to be on TV. The riders are secondary.

  4. Jon

    I dig the guy on the penny farthing. The preponderance of costumed fans was more of an unwelcome distraction for me than anything else. I wonder if the proximity to So Cal and the high number of hmm… for lack of a better term attention whores that tinseltown tends to attract had something to do with it.

    A little moderation would have been nice but unfortunately many americans don’t get moderation for the most part.

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  6. illy

    I think peoles are just haveing some fun. Dont hate because you are a boring drip. Take the stick out of your ass and have some fun.

  7. James

    My guess is that they aren’t really fans of racing, they just watch the Tour 1 or 2 days in July and have seen some of the folks their and say to themselves, “Gee, that looks like fun maybe I will do that too”. For some it will always be “the scene” and not the race that attracts them. Go to any other race (one without TV) and you will see none of those shenanigans, just folks enjoying the racing.

  8. Lachlan

    at the tour in particular a few things are clear to me:

    – the crowds on climbs are too big, too drunk and seem ti endanger the riders
    -there are nutters in all kinds of outfits falling all over the road and potentially getting in the way
    – even the publicist caravan is crass, over the top, dangerous etc


    Its part of the whole essence of any great race. It’s the quintessential atmosphere of the big mountains. And it is something I believe most riders love… I know i’d rather be racing through a wall of noise and colour at the top of an Alp than through barriers with no one there.

    1. Author

      On one level I really love the colorful characters who cheer the riders, but because I’ve seen so many things go wrong over the years, I can’t help but be concerned for the riders and their safety. On the second lap a guy (who wasn’t even dressed up) who was shooting video of the riders was so concerned with getting his shot that he knocked down a child who was watching, (as Bill Cosby would say) just cleaned him out. A BMC rider yelled at him and told him to watch out for the kids. I was amazed that the guy noticed and had enough in reserve to be able to yell at video man. It was unfortunate.

  9. wvcycling


    I can’t recall it all correctly, so I hope someone fills out the story where I miss out..

    During ?Cyclocross Worlds? a few years ago, a spectator tosses some of his beer upon a racer, and on the next (final) lap, this rider is all alone, clips out of his right pedal and donkey kicks this spectator with all of the rage that he could muster. The referees acknowledged, but did not cite the racer for this action.

  10. SinglespeedJarv

    Other than the weird and wonderful fans (“fans”) you seem to have over their, I was thinking back to when I was younger and would go out and watch some of the bug races if they came anywhere near me. In those days it was before I raced and before I understood the requirements of racing. One such event I went to watch was the UK’s premier Pro-Am stage race of the day.

    My expectations were that the domestic pro’s should kick the arses of the amateur teams. I probably had the idea that the domestic riders weren’t much good and rode as Pro’s as much for the ego as for the money. Anyway, the stage I was watching, I was at the 20km to go point and after the “hills” that I thought were really tough and would split things up. What I saw was a group off the front, a big bunch and then drabs of riders off the back in ones and twos. Quite a few of these were the domestic pro’s. I think at this point I heckled them, suggesting that they were crap and perhaps weren’t worthy of the title “professional”. All this from a 15year-old kid, it’s no wonder they looked around.

    Anyway, they may well have been crap, I shuld at least stand by my insults, but equally they might have been rolling in the finish after riding on the front of the bunch over the hills for 50km doing their work for the team. Fans eh? Takes all sorts. but who’d be a PRO?

  11. jc

    Don’t get me started!

    resorting to a bit of name calling, I think all the costumed people at ATOC are pretty much douchebags. It seems pretty typical USA- emulate something then botching it up by going over-the-top with it (‘Tacky is just everything *good* all at once’). These people aren’t even watching the bike racing- they’re running the bulls- but not *actually* running the bulls, they’re running the Disney version of the bulls…

    Like that guy in the U Montana kit and the helmet with Elk antlers and the American flag at the Tour every year- FTW? Just jogging along…jogging along…not a word. Why is he there? TV! Look Ma!!!

    sorry, I got started. I wish they’d all stop

  12. Ron

    While I think cheering fans are great and probably appreciated by riders, I am annoyed with people who need to “insert” themselves. Yes, T-R, I think our world has gotten so interactive that people feel the need and think it is their right to be part of everything. It would be nice if people could just cheer and let the PROS be the ones on display.

    Sure, some of these antics are funny. But, this is just like drunk kids showing up at college sporting events, caring nothing about the sport, and be so rude and obnoxious that true fans (and parents of players and younger siblings) are offended.

    I think most hecklers deserve to be locked in a room with the athletes they are heckling. I’m pretty sure that would shut them up kind of fast. Yeah, joking and having some fun is great, but cursing and insulting people is out of line. Remember the Seinfeld where he asks the heckler if he can come by their place of work and harass them?

  13. the don juan

    i cannot believe so many people are crying about the fans that came out to watch the ToC. I know for a fact that both Fabian and Cav loved the fans because they told me themselves. As far as James saying the they werent “really fans of racing”. i know the guy on the penny farthing and hes a pro mtn racer and a road racer as well. you sound like cry babies. if you dont like it here in california, then move back to dallas you cry babies

    1. Author

      Given some of the recent comments, this is a good time to remind everyone that commenting at RKP comes with one requirement: that you remain civil. I’ve let things go a bit, but as some of the recent commenters are new here, I don’t want to come down too hard. But in case it isn’t obvious: Your views are welcome here, but name-calling isn’t. Thanks.

  14. the don juan

    p.s. just something to remember. there is no tour of arizona or tour of kentucky bringing in all these pros. do you know why? i will tell you. its because those places suck. there is a reason the tour spent three days in southern california. you roadies are such babies! you want it to be like the tour of utah with a few hundred spectators? i dont. this is the best way to get cycling to blow up. i say stop crying and focus on going fast. if you dont like people, then stay home. period.

  15. Dan O

    The dressed up fans are nut cases – but fun to watch anyway.

    That Tour de France Devil Dude who’s been at it for decades now, is the only legit one of the bunch.

  16. Todd

    Below is from Jeremy Powers’ AToC diary on VeloNews. Apparently the riders love the super fans. After all, it’s gotta be a great way to break up the monotony of the pain.

    “One of the most memorable and notable elements of the Amgen Tour were the fans. From day one in Nevada City, we were overwhelmed by the number of people, the amount of noise they could make, and the crazy costumes they conjured up. We saw everything from the Pope, squirrels with nuts, Mr. Potato Head, Cheerleaders, a Sumo-wrestler dad and son, and the list goes on. On Bonny Doon, I literally saw a wine and cheese table a fan had set up for the riders and we were cordially invited to join her!

    These are the people that really make the race awesome, and keep us smilin’ through those long days on the bike.”

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