The man in le maillot jaune: please, don’t knock him over.

Chavanel: I could have crashed him first thing.

Unwritten law of cycling journalism. Never knock over the Yellow Jersey when he’s on his way to sign-in. Just not done, bad form, get yourself throw out of the tour and your laptop confiscated by the gendarmes.

What’s amazing is that it doesn’t happen every other day. For all the dangers the riders face — cobblestones, wind, rain storms, insane descents of mountains at 65kph — nothing is quite like the dangers of the morning sign-in. I’m serious, folks.

It’s an event that’s fraught with danger. Often team buses are crammed together on a small European side street, the pathway in between is mobbed with journalists, cameramen, photographers, VIP’s, team personnel, tourists, families with mom pushing a stroller, little kids playing hide and seek.

Plus, I forgot to mention, team cars coming and going, moving to the start line. WHen they fill the narrow road, there’s no more than two feet on either side, often less. That morning I watched the greatest riders in the world negotiate that, weaving in and out and staying upright. You can lose the Tour de France for get yourself a DNF just for trying to sign your name.

It’s that wonderful accessibility to the riders that fans love but it’s also a huge risk for riders. Imagine injuring the star quarterback moments before the start of the Superbowl or accidently tripping LeBron James and breaking his wrist at the NBA finals. C’est pas bon.

Stephabne Auge of Cofidis shouted out “laissez passer les coureurs, s’il vous plait.” Let the riders pass — but most people are too busy gawking at bikes, taking pictures and looking for their favorite stars. I saw Chavanel coming and I wanted his picture bad enough to take a stupid risk.

It’s hard to judge a rider’s speed at any speed. We brushed each other — he stayed up, I had my picture and life went on. Later in the day on the cobbles of stage three,  he’d need two bike changes but he never crashed. Not in the race or at sign-in. But tomorrow is of course another day.

Note: For all the cool pics I got from the last few stages, check out the TS Flickr gallery right, about, here.

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4 Responses to “The man in le maillot jaune: please, don’t knock him over.”

  1. hahah this is true, the sign-in as well as the time-trial warming-ups are mad

  2. Yup,

    Last year I was at Monaco (where I happen to be right now!) for the prologue. It was madness!! Especially at the entrance to the team area. The riders had to negotiate an insanely huge. Cavendish brushed by me on his was in. Forget about the Astana bus area, when Armstrong was warming up the crowd was so thick and it was so hot it became real uncomfortable.

  3. Matt, I’m surprised there isn’t more danger for the riders… WHen you think back over the years, last year’s disturbing incident when Julian Dean and another rider were shot w/ pellets by French snipers is the only one of its kinds that I can think of. Yet it would be effortless to wiper-out most of the peloton and terminate the careers or lives of the world’s best cyclists, if a terrorist decided that was what they wanted to focus their attack on…

    Maybe cycling flies below the radar of your typical Jihadist or ALF/PETA anarchist.

    • Joe, good to hear from you. I'm amazed somebody isn't killed each day, riders or spectators. Feel like if this was the States, liability lawyers would have shut the race down. Just barely controlled chaos.