They are close enough to whisper to the riders. Close enough to touch them as the peloton streaks by, a blurred stream of confetti. And sometimes, too close.
They line the floss-thin roads of climbs in the snow and rain, and they stand along entire Tour stages for just a glimpse of the bunch. Old women in their lawn chairs wait in the middle of nowhere, and children rest upon their fathers’ shoulders just to see.
Cycling is a sport played out upon the open roads and in an open arena; there is no barrier between rider and reveler. Risky? Occasionally. But without an audience, what is sport?
And what an audience it is.