July 24, 2003
Giles Smith, in the Daily Telegraph, contrasts the fan situation at the Tour with that in Formula One, where a former Irish priest recently jumped onto the track with a couple of cardboard placards, apparently to promote the Bible. Smith, clearly with a talent for understatement, calls the action "bracingly incautious."
Yesterday, Tyler Hamilton, of the United States, struck out alone from the peloton in a highly ambitious and ultimately successful assault on Stage 16. (And hats off to Eurosport's loquacious commentator, David Duffield, who tipped Hamilton to hold his lead when he was still a good hour and a half from the finish, a prediction which drew much patronising derision from Duffield's three team-mates, all of whom smugly assured Duffield that Hamilton would run out of puff.)
The necessary by-product of Hamilton's solo push was that he became chief road-clearer. On certain of the more populated slopes and corners, he found himself driving straight at, not just one batty Irishman with a couple of pieces of cardboard, but at an entire human wall, much of it gesticulating wildly and waving things.
The odds grew high that, even if he were to prevail and cross the line as Duffield said he would, Hamilton would do so wearing at least one Basque national flag and, quite possibly, the person holding it. How the riders must long, at these moments, for those stretches in open country, where they can finally be alone with just their thoughts for company, plus half a dozen motorcycle outriders, seven team cars and three helicopters.
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