As the world’s finest cyclists wove through the streets around Tokyo, they heard an unfamiliar sound at these Olympics: cheers. Horns sounded, cowbells clanked, and Japanese fans shouted as the cyclists whipped through the city. It was a stark difference from the rest of the Olympics, where fans have been banned because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Fans defied orders by Tokyo officials not to gather along the race route. The road race lasted six hours and covered 234 kilometers or about 145 miles. Fans lined much of the course, standing four and five deep in the race’s closing kilometers.
The race finished at the Fuji International Speedway, which has a capacity of 110,000 and thus plenty of room to spread out. The fans in attendance got to see a dominating solo win by Richard Carapaz of Ecuador, followed by a thrilling fight for silver and bronze. Fans celebrate Richard Carapaz’s gold medal win.
Earlier in the month, Tokyo 2020 officials had asked fans not to gather along with the road cycling, triathlon, and marathon races. “The Tokyo Organizing Committee … has decided to ask the public to refrain from spectating on roadsides during the forthcoming Olympic Cycling Road and Triathlon events… given the need to reduce the ongoing risk of COVID-19 infection,” organizers said in a statement.
Athletes throughout the Games have already noted that the lack of fan enthusiasm, in the words of Megan Rapinoe, “sucks.” The fans’ energy in the stands is impossible to replicate with piped-in crowd noise, and for this year at least, an essential component of the Games is lost almost everywhere. There won’t be many cheers at the rest of the Tokyo Olympics, but those at the Fuji International Speedway were sweet to hear.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at email@example.com.