One of the most iconic images of the Tour de France is the hoards of super fans cheering and running alongside riders as they climbs the mountain roads. The crowds seem to make a wall, which only just parts in time for the riders to make it through. The concentration and patience the riders need to stay calm and not panic amongst the flags and over enthusiastic fans dressed in fancy dress is impressive!
Unfortunately the crowds do tend to be the most dangerous part of the Tour de France and we can always remember the time when Lance Armstrong crashed down onto the road having clipped a spectator’s souvenir bag
But for the most part, the crowds are a fun and integral part to the atmosphere of the Tour. Over the more recent years it seems to have become popular to dress in fancy dress whilst watching the tour and spending the day on the mountains. Just watching yesterday’s stage up the Col du Tourmalet I saw Pamela Anderson (complete with fake boobs and life buoy), Superman and various human-size furry animals!!! I hope for their sake they didn't have to ride their bikes to get up the mountain to their spots on the roadside!
Amongst the crowd there is one character who has earned his reputation as one of the most famous of the fans – El Diablo.
For the past 23, dressed in his red devil costume, Didi (real name Dieter Senfit from Germany) is a familiar race on the mountain stage to both the riders and spectators. He wears red tights, a horned cap and carries a trident. He paints tridents on the course leading up the mountains and then as the cyclists go past jumps around like a mad-man cheering and shouting the riders on. He can spend up to 100 days a year watching races, and often bagsies his space up to 3 days before the stage is due to come past. There were rumours that last year was going to be his last, but our spies have already spotted him this year, and took this photo with him yesterday at La Mongie!
Photo courtesy of Bob Pugh who was staying with Allons - y - Pyrenees on their Tour de France week. http://www.allons-y-pyrenees.com/cycle.htm