The 10 funniest cyclists
It’s a well-known fact that professional cyclists are hilarious, spending endless hours tearing up and down the world’s roads trying to make each other giggle.
A lifetime of high-intensity all-weather training and exhaustive analysis of power-to-weight ratios has given them all a sharp eye for the Wildean quip. Which is why it’s quite cocky of me to make an Edinburgh show about cycling, when I know full well that there will be a lot of ‘Lycra Lol-makers’ sitting in the front row, glaring at me as if to say ‘go on then, impress us’.
It’s very probable that my career will, in the process, go over the handlebars into a ditch leaving it with a fractured funny/collarbone and so I thought it best to demonstrate a degree of humility by first paying tribute to the many humorous cyclists the world has known up to now.
If I can raise even a tenth of the smiles these fellas brought to their fellow man then I can retire content, though if the show goes too well there will inevitably be questions as to whether or not performance-enhancing substances had something to do with it.
I’m confident, however, that the mediocre reviews and reception for my show will attest that I really am doing Edinburgh clean this year. So, on your marks, get set…
With his high-pitched Australian accent and dry, humourless sense of humour, Cadel Evans lit up the 2011 Tour by winning it without making a single attack. His most famous one-liner came during an interview that year where Cadel said to a reporter ‘Don’t step on my dog or I cut your head off’, before retreating into his trailer with a nervous, girly titter. Legend.
Cheeky Spaniard Pedro Delgado won the 1988 Tour de France with a comfortable margin and a strong whiff of anabolic steroids. He then celebrated the following year by turning up 2 minutes and 40 seconds late for the opening Time Trial, something that eventually cost him the race. Theories abound about where he was for those two minutes, from being stopped by police to being ‘in space’. ‘I was just warming up and got distracted’ says Delgado, with a wink. Oh yeah, Pedro, whatever you say!
One of Chris Froome’s key lieutenants this year, plucky Welshman Thomas has often been seen leading the charge up the mountain stages, but behind the businesslike front lurks a latter-day Derek from Derek and Clive. A few days ago Thomas struck hard, turning the tables on interviewer Ned Boulting and interviewing him. Boutling squirmed as Thomas unleashed a stinging satire of how the media stir up trouble within cycling teams. ‘Do you see yourself as a challenge to [fellow ITV4 reporter] Matt Rendell, Ned?’ ‘No, Geraint, we’re all here to support Matt. Are you trying to stir things up?’ ‘Me, a reporter stir things up? Never’. Boom. Thomas dropped the mic and Boutling was left with a lot of very serious questions about his professional behaviour.
For everyone who grew up watching cycling in the 90s a regular feature was guessing who this guy was. ‘There goes Bo Hamburger’ the commentators would say, and the children would scan the footage, looking for someone in a hilarious burger-themed costume, always asking ‘Who is he? Who is Bo Hamburger?’. Years later, perfunctory research reveals him to have been a Danish rider with a middling career who has since admitted to extensive doping. Goooooo Bo!
Eugène Christophe was the fall guy for the biggest Punk in Tour history. In the 1913 Tour Christophe was leading the race over the Col du Tourmalet in the Pyrenees when part of his frame broke. The Tour organisers, sniggering, told him that he had to do all his repairs himself and so Christophe was obliged to walk down the mountain to the nearest village and go to a blacksmith to fix the bike. The Tour organisers, still sniggering, said that he wasn’t allowed to have the blacksmith help him so Christophe had to do all the necessary forging himself, which took three hours. After he’d returned to the race, now hours behind everyone, Christophe was then penalised a further ten minutes because the blacksmith’s son had pumped the bellows for him and this counted as cheating. When it was later revealed in front of a rapturous studio audience that he’d been Punk-d, Christophe is reported to have wept bitter tears.
The late Laurent Fignon pioneered catchphrase comedy among the cycling community, developing a routine that people would delight in doing at parties. Anyone could go up to him and say ‘Hey, aren’t you that guy who lost the Tour on the final day by a margin of 8 seconds?’, and he would assume this brilliantly-observed expression of weariness and reply ‘Yes, but I also won the Tour twice and the Giro d’Italia. Please try to remember that as well.’ Cue uproar from anyone nearby.
‘Cav’ or ‘The Manx Missile’ was one of the first to recognise the significance of using Twitter to spread info on the Tour. He continues to be a regular poster, issuing daily updates about Tour life: ‘The disorientation from switching hotels daily makes nighttime peeing a true test of memory, logic, agility & patience.’ He’s actually an alright guy.
Cycling’s answer to Werner Herzog is famed for his fevered rants about motivation ‘And like your body is saying ‘no, I don’t want to do it, I can’t do this anymore’, and I’m saying ‘Shut up, body!’ and your lungs are filling up with blood and I’m saying ‘Shut up, lungs!’, and this is for hours, and I want get some more coffee, and then I’m having too much coffee, and I’m saying ‘There’s too much coffee but I must keep going!’ and my body is saying ‘please stop this’, and I’m saying ‘Shut up, body, enjoy the coffee!’. In Jen’s comic-book German accent the above quotation has made its way onto various motivational videos on YouTube, and a genuine App that will, when pressed, say ‘Shut up, body’.
His career on the bike aside, Lance’s enormous profile made him more or less the only cyclist actually to venture onto the screen to do comedy. His cameo in 2004’s ‘Dodgeball’ saw him teach Vince Vaughan a thing or two about staying motivated; at the 2006 ESPY Awards Will Ferrell made Lance part of a routine about his reunion with his ‘father’ Neil Armstrong, and for the 2009 edition of the awards Lance recorded a skit with US Office star Rainn Wilson. In it, Lance played a version of himself as a psychotic, selfish bully, and everyone applauded how well he’d captured the way people were going to see him in 3 years’ time.
All riders in the 1904 Tour de France.
We have to save the best for last as the guys in the second ever Tour de France really set the bar astonishingly high when it came to cheating. In an age when the stages were around 290 miles and thus required cyclists to ride for days at a time, the lack of close supervision lent a wonderful Marx Brothers feel to proceedings. Gangs supporting each rider would lie in wait and then beat up their man’s rivals, breaking their fingers, slashing their tyres, leaving broken glass and nails on the road or just standing in the way to prevent anyone else catching up with their champion. Riders routinely hopped in a car for a lift, got into fist fights or just caught a train from one town to the next. Policemen regularly had to fire shots in the air to maintain some semblance of order. When the dust settled all the stage winners were disqualified as were the top 4 riders in the race overall. A high standard to live up to in this neutered age.
Kieran Hodgson: Lance, Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, 8 – 30 August. For more information visit www.edfringe.com.