Posts Tagged ‘wiggo’

Love Handles

October 18, 2013

SCHEVENINGEN/ROTTERDAM
Words: Andy McGrath Photographs: Offside

Now the racing season’s all but over, we can get talking about the serious issues that modern cycling has failed to address.

This one has been on my mind since this year’s Tour de France, what with G’s pelvis-smashing crash, the Tourminator dominating the points competition and Froomey winning the whole thing.

See the problem? What’s in a nickname anymore? Not much, and that’s a shame.

Back in the day, lone scribes would conjure up (often) fictional accounts of riders battering through the dark on rutted roads, regularly telling a story lent by their style, background or personality.

The original purpose wasn’t on the reality – how could they catch the riders passing? – but on getting readers interested and laying on the poetic license, picking favourites and eulogising.

Nicknames have become a part of cycling’s rich heritage. They are instant, pleasant entry points to a sport for the novice, or provide a rich image for the fan.

Physical or personal characteristics become accentuated, mortals on bicycles lent a violence or beauty.

We had a bunch of locomotives and cannibals; phantasmagoric battles where a heron could swoop above lions and leopards.

Charly Gaul, a slight man who worked in a Luxembourg slaughterhouse before turning professional, became the Angel of the Mountains.

Sometimes they were sillier or downright rude. Three-time Giro winner Carlo Galetti was the Squirrel of the Canals, in reference to his birth by the Milan waterways, scrunched-up facial features and conservative racing style.

Henry Anglade acquired the sobriquet of Napoleon for his (lack of) height and bossy manner. Appropriately, he didn’t mind the association.

The bunch of the ‘50s and ‘60s was a caricaturist’s dream, and the fans lapped it up.

Now I feel like we’ve reached an impasse, cycling lolling into the lazy territory owned by football’s dressing room.

The –y or –o (Froomey and Wiggo, tut, tut) is more readily tacked on at the end as an afterthought, a vague attempt at familiarity.

They used to be anointed by journalists; now you’re as likely to have executives thinking up new sobriquets as a way of making money.

The elephants and other animals – the menagerie is close to being exhausted – have been caged. New nicknames are either forced or cliché. It doesn’t take much imagination so it doesn’t capture the collective one.

Vincenzo Nibali is the Shark of Messina, but as a well-brought up bambino, he’s got about as much bite as a goldfish. As for Sagan’s Tourminaitor… we can do better.

Maybe it’s me erringly romanticising the past; maybe it’s a malaise relating to the present day.

With coverage exploding in the last decade, everyone can see the action, give an opinion and try to be an Antoine Blondin; the myriad platforms are available at the click of a button.

Social media and the availability of action is a joyful advance, but it means we rapidly take on the water of rapid information and opinions, and struggle to float.

No one person is a key outlet like the scribes of yore being read by millions.

Cycling is sharing a smaller piece of the popularity pie too. Whole nations aren’t enthralled by a race or a rider anymore.

Perhaps the last man to gain such a heady national fervour was Marco Pantani. Or rather Il Pirata, Elefantino, Nosferatu… he had nicknames aplenty.

I feel this particular cycling lyrical tradition is slipping away. It’s a little sad (though not a lot sad because, let’s face it, getting better nicknames is somewhere low alongside ‘make team kits more fashionable’ on the sport’s never-ending to-do list).

As it’s annoying to moan without offering solutions, here’s a few suggestions. Feel free to add your own – or dismiss mine.

Ian Stannard: the Iron Man of Milton Keynes.

Matt Goss: the Tasmanian Devil, for his tactical slyness and propensity to fly into an occasional rage at a sprint going awry.

Gerald Ciolek: The Iceman, a nod to his sangfroid and winning ways in wild weather.

John Degenkolb: the Flying Moustache, part-dependent on whether he keeps his facial topiary.

ENTRAINEMENT SKY

Cath

December 6, 2012

Words: Ian Cleverly Photos: Geoff Waugh

You know how it is. Feet up on the sofa watching the Tour highlights all alone, glass of wine in hand, I’m wondering what it must feel like to know – as early as the ninth stage, to Besançon – that your nearest and dearest, barring accidents or complete meltdown, is going to win the race; to know that those months, years, of effort and sacrifice were worth it – if indeed they are worth it.

It needs that person to be sitting here on the sofa with me, watching the race, a bundle of nerves as the camera homes in on the latest crash until the fallers are identified; relief as the yellow jersey is spotted safely ensconced at the head of the peloton. It requires this rubbernecking journo to lean across and see firsthand the stream of consciousness Tweeting taking place, the rule of thumbs relaying thoughts within seconds. There is a need to glean the un-Tweeted, extract the unsaid, to gauge whether the enormity of what her husband was about to achieve had struck home; how it would change their lives irreparably.

A couple more glasses of red later and it seems a fine idea to send a speculative e-mail to Cath Wiggins suggesting we meet up and watch the race together; explaining how we had met on two previous occasions and how, to my eternal shame, I had practically trampled over her to reach Brad; saying how I couldn’t even recall what she looked like.

In the cold – and sober – light of the morning, the wording of that e-mail looked quite preposterous. The wait for a suitably strong riposte began but it did not last long.

“Oh, don’t worry,” she wrote. “Everybody does that,” referring to my lack of courtesy and common decency. A magnanimous response to say the least. Yet she agreed to the idea, so we planned a day of TV watching in France following the rest day in Pau. It didn’t work out, for one reason or another, so we rescheduled for the Tour of Britain, arranging a rendezvous on top of Quernmore, the day’s final climb on the stage into Blackpool.

As luck would have it, the worst weather the north west of England could muster slammed down on the hilltop that morning; gusting winds bringing torrential downpours that tumbled down the fields and onto the road, huge pools of standing water forming at the foot of the climb.

I sent a text questioning whether Cath was really riding the 50 miles from home to Quernmore or doing the sensible thing and driving. The reply was fast and emphatic: “I am on my way. I am northern!”

We found a cold, shivering Cath beneath a tree with dad Dave Cochram in tow, chaperone for the day. Having watched Brad and his boys shoot past, successfully lining up that day’s sprint for Mark Cavendish, we head to the nearest pub for tea and coffee.

Pulling out one of our Wiggo mugs from my bag, I’m already making apologies, thinking it may be a bit odd drinking tea from a vessel with a cartoon version of your husband adorning the outside. But she loves it, with one reservation: “His hair’s the wrong colour. It’s not ginger…”

Extract from issue 35, out now