There are quite a few rider nicknames floating around the past and present pro peloton. Outside of a few apt and appropriate monikers like “The Tashkent Terror” (Djamolodine Abdujaparov) or “The Cannibal” (Eddy Merckx, of course), one has to admit the corpus of material is rather staid, if not out-and-out pitiful. Amongst the league of nations making up the pro peloton, however, the Italians seem to be in a class by themselves regarding not only their predilection for embarrassing nicknames, but their continuous prediliction for self-administered embarrassing nicknames.
But it just can’t end there. Nope. These lame-ass nicknames come to life on their saddles for all the world to see. Let’s take a walk down memory lane:
1. Claudi Chiappucci aka “Il Diablo”
Image source: http://www.gs-bike.com/shop/index.php?cPath=37&osCsid=7d1e556d726f14edae2eb4f273594128
It’s hard to be a badass “Il Diablo” when you’ve got a cherub face and looked to be all of 16 years old while in the prime of your cycling career. Plus, there was already a fetid German dressed in a devil suit spectating at every Tour de France you ever rode who already laid claim to being “The Devil”. Claudio, you’re a day late and 20,000 lire short…
2. Marco Pantani aka “The Pirate”
Image source: http://www.herneweb.com/image.php?imageID=197
I’m not the biggest Lance Armstrong fan, but he hit the nail on the head during his 2000 Tour de France Ventoux gifting fallout,
“I call him Elephantino, not Il Pirata because last time I checked you’re not supposed to give yourself nicknames,” Armstrong said. “The Italian media gave him the name Elephantino, so for me that’s the official name. I can’t say my name is ‘Big Tex’.”
Game, set, match to Mr. Armstrong.
3. Paolo Bettini aka “El Grillo” (The Cricket)
Image source: http://www.cyclingnews.com/tech.php?id=photos/2004/tech/features/sanremo/MSR04_05
Ok, at least Bettini didn’t commit the fashion crime of having some chirpy Jiminy Cricket icon flitting about on his saddle, but this faux pas comes pretty close. After winning the World Cup, Bettini showed up at the beginning of the next season sporting this World Cup homage saddle on his ride. The problem is, you can’t autograph your own saddle. That just needs to be excised with an indelible Sharpie right away.
4. Filippo Pozzato aka Blond Angel
Image source: http://www.cyclingnews.com/photos/2006/mar06/msr06/index.php?id=Pipposaddle
Oh. My. God. Is this the saddle of the man who just won the 2006 edition of Milan-San Remo, or is this the saddle of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer character. If I were a UCI commissaire, Filippo Pozzato would have been relegated to last in Milan-San Remo for fashion crimes against humanity.
Thankfully, there are a few Italian professionals sporting saddles which carry a wee bit more gravitas than “Blond Angel”. Leave it to me to scoop the cycling paparazzi with these images:
Exhibit A. Filippo “Die Lance Die” Simeoni’s fizik saddle:
Simple, yet elegant. Says Simeoni, “Now Lance can kiss my ass every time I ride my bike”.
Exhibit B. Giovanni “Jules” Lombardi’s saddle:
Quentin Tarantino rips off material from all walks of life. Having been duly impressed by the embroidery on this very saddle visiting the Giro way back when, Jules Winnfield ended up with an amazingly similar wallet in Pulp Fiction. Of course, there can be only one. While Andrea Tafi was still breaking legs in the peloton this saddle was known to make an occasional public appearance. These days the “Bad Motherfucker” torch has been passed to evergreen Giovanni Lombardi. Never mind Lombardi’s prior Grand Tour stage wins and Olympic gold medal, anyone who notches a single season Grand Tour triple-header is a freak.