Nice, The Best Place in the World

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Rouleur columnist Larry Warbasse reflects on his adopted home of Nice following the Bastille Day 2016 attacks on the Promenade des Anglais.

Photographs: Marshall Kappel

No, the messages I woke up to asking whether I was there and whether I was safe didn’t get to me. The videos and news reports I watched didn’t flip the switch either. Maybe I was in race mode, totally shut off to the outside world, to feeling, to emotion. I don’t know why, but I didn’t feel it, and for some reason it wasn’t real.

 

But then, as I sat there, resting on the top tube of my bike, helmet in hand and head bowed in thought, my eyes began to well. Tears dripped down behind the dark lenses of my glasses. Only then, at a not-so-convenient time, did the gravity of those attacks set in.

 

That’s my town, I thought. My home.

 

Nice is the best place in the world, my friends, training partners and I like to say. We take a leisurely ride to the coffee shop, sit out under blue skies, sleeves and shorts rolled up to bask in the sunshine. The best place in the world.

 

We ride up the mountains, through small villages perched on the sides, past waterfalls and cliffs, stopping occasionally to admire the view. The best place in the world.

 

We finish every day descending the twisty roads, from the hills back to the sea, overlooking magnificent views of that gorgeous sunshine glistening on the expansive Mediterranean Sea.

 

Ask anyone if they like living in Nice and, Niçoise or not, the answer is always the same: “how could you not?” It’s a place where it’s hard to see sadness.

 

Yes, Nice is a happy place, which is what made the contrast of the recent events so drastic. It was hard for me to wrap my head around. How could something so horrible happen to a place so great?

 

As the Tour de France rages on, or the Tour of Poland continues over here, it’s easy to get lost in the world of cycling. The media is full of headlines: Froome’s footrace, crashes, contracts and the like. Mayhem on Mont Ventoux, chaos in the crosswinds, bedlam with banners collapsing as riders catapult towards the finish.

 

We riders are shocked, we are outraged. We wonder how we’re not protected from the fans, we wonder why there aren’t barriers on the side of the road, we wonder why there aren’t more security measures to keep us safe.

 

But then, real chaos strikes. All of a sudden, we take a breath. We step back. And we realise that maybe it’s not all about cycling. No, in the grand scheme of things, one minute lost doesn’t really matter. A “controversial” race jury decision doesn’t really matter. A little crash, a broken bike, a bent rule – in the grand scheme, these things don’t really matter.

 

What really matters is that at the end of the day, you’re ok. Your family is ok. Your friends are ok.

 

In Nice right now, that is not the case. And because of that, our concerns over this sometimes all-encompassing sport should be put to the side for a moment. Think of the victims. Of the families. Of the people.

 

So while I am racing my bike at the moment, my thoughts are not with cycling. They are not with the Tour de France, the Tour of Poland, cycling news or on Twitter.

 

No, today my thoughts are with my city, the best place in the world. Nice.

 

Larry Warbasse is an American professional cyclist who races for IAM Cycling.

 

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