03 August 2008

European Summer Culture

Like any other European country, Denmark has it's Tour. It's called 'Post Danmark Rundt' because the main sponsor is our national postal service Post Danmark. Not surprising, since our postal carriers ride bicycles.

The race wraps up in my neighbourhood but I've never seen it, so we all wandered down to watch. Even though I used to race competitively, I only follow the Giro, Vuelta and, bien sûr, Le Tour out of habit. On the last day, the riders arrive in the Frederiksberg neighbourhood of Copenhagen and do ten 6 km laps through the city. We caught them on a street near us.

Cycle sport is, of course, a sport but here in Europe it is really a big part of our culture and has been for over a century. People from all over Europe flock to France to catch an etape or two of the Tour de France and even our modest little Tour of Denmark attracts between 500,000 and 1,000,000 spectators if the weather is good. There's 5.3 million people in Denmark.

During the Tour de France, every workplace has a telly tuned in on the days where the battles are fought on the 'kongeetaper' - King's Stages - in the mountains. It really is a national and European summer cultural event. I'm alway amazed how people from other countries know so little about Le Tour de France and cycle sport in general.

It was fun today. People lining the streets, drinking beer, eating ice cream in the sun. My boy got into the Tour de France last year because of a Danish rider, Michael Rasmussen, and this year Denmark was paying extra attention because one of the teams in the Tour was Danish - and they won three trophies. Which was nice. So I figured the boy should see the speedy lycra boys here in the 'hood during the Tour of Denmark. He sure never sees them on the bike lanes.

This year a Dane won for the first time since 2002. Which was nice. Here are some previous winners:
2007: Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Norway
2006: Fabian Cancellara, Schweiz
2005: Ivan Basso, Italy
2004: Kurt-Asle Arvesen, Norway
2003: Sebastian Lang, Germany
2002: Jakob Piil, Denmark
2001: David Millar, UK
2000: Rolf Sørensen, Denmark
1999: Tyler Hamilton, USA
1998: Marc Streel, Belgium
1997: Servais Knaven, Holland
1996: Fabrizio Guidi, Italy
1995: Bjarne Riis, Denmark
1988: Phil Anderson, Australia