Why we love cycling fans: Tadej Pogačar and other pros tell GCN why fans make the sport special

GCN spoke to WorldTour riders throughout the season to find out why cycling’s fans are so important

Clock04:21, Tuesday 21st May 2024
Tadej Pogačar is cheered on by the tifosi on stage 15 of the Giro d'Italia

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Tadej Pogačar is cheered on by the tifosi on stage 15 of the Giro d'Italia

Cycling’s relationship with its fans is unique and unmatched by any other sport. Not ushered into stands far from a pitch or forced to watch from a distance, cycling’s tifosi can rub shoulders with riders in an intimate way that isn’t possible in other sports.

Come rain or shine, snow or hail, wind-swept Belgian countryside or high Alpine passes, they litter roads in their thousands for a chance to cheer on their cycling heroes for what is often only a brief moment as a charging peloton flies by in a blur.

Read more: Meet the cycling fan who has ridden 53 Grand Tours in pursuit of the pros

While the feelings of the fans towards the pros is obvious, the riders rarely get the chance to reciprocate their gratitude towards the fans, so we decided to scour the WorldTour peloton throughout this season to find out in their own words what the fans mean to the pros.

There was nobody better to start with than Tadej Pogačar who has been on the receiving end of plenty of adoration during his all-conquering exploits at the Giro d’Italia, but the Slovenian’s sentiments were echoed by riders at other races throughout the season.

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates)

Without the fans, there wouldn’t be professional cycling and we wouldn't be here right now. There would be no journalists here and the fans are the key to spectacles like the Giro.

Here at the race, I’ve experienced some amazing fans who have been cheering my name for 200km alongside the road. That was unbelievable and on stage 15, on the final climb, as well. Fans always give you extra motivation and you can push through the limit when they’re so loud in your ears that you think you’re going deaf because they scream so much, but it gives you a big boost.

Read more: Giro d’Italia: Tadej Pogačar swats away Ineos' crosswind ambush as fan selfies prove more of a challenge

Bauke Mollema (Lidl-Trek)

Cycling has always been the sport that best belongs to the fans. There is such a small space between the fans and the riders, whether it’s at the starts, finishes or on the roadside. You can basically touch them, and that happens, and sometimes they even give us a push in some races. That’s one of the strengths of pro cycling, that fans can be that close to the riders. That’s nice for the riders too because you often see the same fans coming out to watch the races, and that’s special.

I can think of one fan in Holland who always comes to the same races and we always say hello. I know him by name, and he even comes to some of the races in Belgium when he can. We send each other messages on social media too, and I used to be a fan of course. I couldn’t go to all the races but I would go to the Tour de France a few times when I was young. I didn’t get to meet the riders, but I’d stand by the roadside and wait for them to race through, and I’d get to see the likes of Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich.

Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious)

Love the fans? No, I hate them. I’m joking, I’m joking.

Cycling fans are the complete atmosphere of the sport. You can be at races sometimes and when there aren’t many fans the atmosphere can drop but when it’s busy, whether it’s at the starts or on the climbs, it’s so special. They have their signs, you can see who they support and even away from racing, when you’re training on your own, they can offer you support or ask for selfies. Sometimes you can be making efforts in training and they try and follow you but I can respect that, and if I’m just riding normally, I don’t even mind a little chat. 

Michael Valgren (EF Education-EasyPost)

Every cycling fan is great for the sport, no matter where you’re racing. But for me, I love racing in Belgium or Italy because the fans there are amazing.

I get much better legs when there’s a big crowd cheering me on through the pain. The more fans the better for me. I remember the Worlds in Belgium a few years ago, and coming into the two big climbs on the circuit, it was like a football stadium with all the noise and it was just so spectacular.

Marco Haller (Bora-Hansgrohe)

For me, 100% cycling fans help us. It might be a little different for the GC riders when they have to ride their way up through the crowds on Alpe d’Huez, for example, but I enjoy that atmosphere because there’s far less stress on my shoulders in those moments.

Fans create the biggest stadium atmospheres for us, like how they do in races like the Tour of Flanders. We need the fans, that’s for sure. Back in Austria, I don’t get recognised that much when out on the roads for training but when you go to places like Belgium it’s nice when the fans approach you and they admire what you’re doing. Being a role model, that’s important. When you go to places like Australia or Japan, too, for races, or the US, it’s a global sport and not just European.

It’s the best sport in the world.

Read more: 66 years marshalling at the Tour of Flanders: Meet Lucien De Schepper

Magnus Cort (Uno-X Mobility)

At the end of the day, the fans mean everything to us. We have sponsors who pay our salaries because of the connection with the fans.

Back at the Tour de France Grand Départ in my home country of Denmark in 2022, it was incredible. I was in the break for both the road stages and it was the next level with the fans. The Tour is big in Denmark and every cycling fans was there to support us. To start in Denmark, to do well and show myself, was a very special moment in my career. I didn’t have a big result over those days but it’s something that I’ll be known for and it’s something that I’ll look back on for my entire career.

I also grew up as a cycling fan. When I was a kid I’d always watch the Tour in the summer holidays on TV. I didn’t know everything about it but I’d watch every stage I could.

Georgia Baker (Liv AlUla Jayco)

We recently raced in Spain and with Mavi García on our team we had extra attention from the fans because she’s Spanish. The fans are really encouraging and they’re definitely a key to growing women’s cycling as well. Riding in front of the fans and having them cheer you, it gives you extra motivation, for sure - the more the merrier.

Alexander Kristoff (Uno-X Mobility) 

If we don’t have fans, we don’t have a sport. It’s that simple. Without fans, there are no races, no big races, and no one to follow us. That’s how much they mean.

I can’t think of one fan in particular right now but of course, I have my own fan club and they’re at races with me and they’re always holding up banners with my name on them, which means a lot. And there are of course the fans who helped me survive my first Giro d’Italia many years ago by giving my ass a few pushes up the climbs to ensure I survived the time cut.

For everything you need to know about the 2024 Giro d'Italia, from the history of the race to this year's route and start list, be sure to check out our dedicated race hub.

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