Robin shouts in English into a microphone, in front of a van registered in the North. He sells official souvenirs of this Tour de France relocated to Scandinavia and cannot believe it. “It’s a crazy thing, he slips, between two commercial tirades. These Danes are crazy! There are people everywhere along the route and with each small climb, it’s like being in the Alps, I’ve never seen that. »
Denmark had never seen the Tour de France other than on television. So, for three days, he celebrated with overflowing and good-natured enthusiasm an event that he is not about to relive. Its population has deployed a continuous guard of honor along the roads and has organized a joyful saraband to make the Bretons or the Flemings jealous, who know a lot about the subject.
Tattooed bearded men with Viking heads, elegant women in long dresses, babies in red bobs, retired couples sitting on folding chairs. It’s as if the whole country was on his doorstep and a passing Frenchman has probably never seen so many smiling people. “That’s Denmark” explains a policeman, positioned in Vejle, Sunday July 3, at the start of the third and last stage in his country. He too smiles: “For people, it’s a big party. »
People everywhere within 200 kilometers
The party had started even before the departure, in Copenhagen, for the presentation of the Grande Boucle in a rock concert atmosphere. It continued the next day, Friday 1er July. You had to see this compact crowd, despite the rain, along the arteries of the Danish capital for the time trial. You also had to hear his cry. At the end of the effort, more than one competitor said that he had not been able to hear the advice of his sports director in the headset.
In Roskilde, for the second stage, Saturday July 2, other Danes had massed, as happy to applaud an advertising float touting an unknown Béarn as helmeted cyclists. A simple preamble. “It was very different from what I expected, reacted the Russian Aleksander Vlasov. I thought it would be crowded at the start and finish and maybe at times. But there were people all over the 200 kilometres. »
Two hours after the sprint finish, in Nyborg, there were still people singing and dancing, dressed in red polka dot T-shirts provided by a large French supermarket chain where they will never set foot. The festivities have resumed in Vejle. Kim Steen, 38, was behind the barriers with his family in the sun three hours before departure. He watches the Tour on TV, admits to prefer football ” to be honest “but he didn’t want to miss the show. “We have been deprived of big parties for two years”, he points out.
Beside him, Mette, his wife adds: “In Denmark, we like football, handball and cycling. » Charly Mottet, twice fourth in the Tour de France, in 1987 and 1991, knew what to expect. “For the Danes, the arrival of the Tour is historic and they love cyclingrecalls the former runner. I was technical delegate of the International Cycling Union when Mark Cavendish won the world championship in Copenhagen (in 2011, Editor’s note) and it had also been a big popular hit. »
“People are happy and proud to show their country”
Christian Prudhomme found himself taken back eight years, when a big start in English Yorkshire had already made an impression: “When we go abroad, we will look for enthusiasm, we will never go to a country where we are not sure of having it. But at that point… It was impressive, phenomenal. Smiles, smiles, smiles… It was the same for the mayor of Copenhagen, the transport minister, the crown prince. As far as big starts for fifteen years are concerned, this one is certainly on the podium with London in 2007 and Yorkshire in 2014. People are happy and proud to show their country, it shows. The Tour is also that, it brings people together. »
Ah, of course, there was the Covid to refresh the atmosphere a bit. The runners circulated with their faces masked in the areas reserved for them and they were instructed to avoid autographs and selfies. But the athletes on the lookout were not swallowed up by this disciplined human tide. Robin got back in his van to return to France: “Business has been good. But if it’s like that in France, we won’t hold out. »