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2017 TDF: The Caravan

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Nationality: We’re going to have to pin this one on France.
Costuming: Notable attire includes various cosplay costumes of the barnyard variety: chickens, roosters, sheep, cows, goats, etc. These costumes are then festooned with logos and words and backed by bright and vibrant colors. But the caravan isn’t limited to individuals. The vehicles themselves play a key role and are dressed up in all manner of whimsical attire, and as such the caravan does its best impression of a Miyazaki parade as it crawls up the flanks of mountains.
Special Powers: The ability to capture the imagination and Euro’s of an entire crowd of people. Creating personality for otherwise soulless corporations. Effecting a party atmosphere with noise, color, and sound while announcing the imminent arrival of the peloton.
Natural Habitat: Strictly limited to the roads and staging areas of the the Tour de France. When observed outside of this area it is understood that the caravan is off the clock and shouldn’t not be expected to behave with dignity or professionalism.

You want to get people hyped?

You want to get people frothing and on the verge of hysterics? You want to get a crowd, a group of enthusiasts, or a mountainside road lined with fans completely out of their minds? There is one sure fire trick: you give them free stuff. Candy, socks, tiny flags, inflatable noise makers, vuvuzelas, water bottles, stuffed animals, chocolates, etc. What you want to do is create a parade of devices that vomit free stuff into the crowd. We call this “chumming the waters,” and if you’ve spent any time watching Shark Week you’d totally get what we mean.

In any Le Tour stage, but especially the climbing stages, the people who line the road have been waiting for a long time. Before the race arrives they will have been standing, reclining, leaning, and pacing up and down the side of the road for hours; it’s no wonder, then, that over time their enthusiasm flags. Between the time they arrived in the pre-dawn light, slowly lumbering up the above category roads in their RVs and Estates, and the arrival of the peloton, even the most spirited fans do not have the energy to maintain the necessary output of enthusiasm. Thankfully Le Tour founders were not blind to this fluctuation of interest. After all, they were newspaper men come of age in the Hearst-ian era. They understood perfectly well that if the necessary enthusiasm was unavailable then it could and should be manufactured. What’s more, manufactured enthusiasm would turn out to be very very profitable.

“Enter the Caravan, a nearly endless dream stream of tricks, treats, energy, and hype, a trade show dressed up in a carnival masquerading as a parade.”

It is hype incarnate: each float/vehicle/display with its own ringmaster, each one trying to out-hype the rest. Their goal is to make an impression, to imbue upon the now stimulated masses gathered along the roadside with a distinctly positive and memorable recollection of their presentation, and as a result, of their brand. The fans, on the other hand, are entreated to float after truck after candy gun after blasting horn after confetti spraying after dancers on rooftops action, all of which serves to drive them into a frenzy just as the peloton approaches. Tit for tat, quid pro quo, the caravan is, at its foundation, a hype-machine with a job to do, a job that’s integral to the ecosystem of Le Tour.

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