We all know who the Texas Tornado is and his chief rival Der Kaiser. How about 'the Cannibal' or 'Pou-Pou'? It is a pretty common practice in the sporting world to give our favorite athletes nicknames. Some, like the aforementioned Cannibal, describe the way they ride a bike while others like 'Chechu' Rubiera are named for for their mother's favorite character in a Spanish radio soap opera.
Sometimes it is easy to figure out where the nickname came from. Eddy Merckx is pretty much considered the best professional rider to ever throw a leg over a bike. He won an amazing one-third of the races he entered and would simply destroy his competition when he saw fit. He was given that name by a journalist in the early 70's and it stuck. The cannibal is a totally appropriate name to describe Merckx's riding style.
There have been some other pretty good nicknames in the past. Bernard Hinault was the badger for his fierce competitive nature. The diminutive, two-time World Champion Paolo Bettini is known as the cricket. Rouler exceptionale Fabian Cancellara was given the moniker 'Spartacus' by a teammate from his days on the Italian Fassa Bortolo team. The winner of the 2006 Paris-Roubaix, which closely resembles a chariot race, could easily be mistaken for a Roman gladiator.
Scott-Saunier Duval rider Riccardo Ricco is known as the Cobra, a name given to him by a friend. It is not known what prompted that name, but his consistently aggressive riding style in the past two Giro d'Italias certainly seem to indicate that it's a pretty good call. And if you saw him launch his searing attack today on the Col du Aspin there is no doubt that he name is well-deserved. Ricco launched with such absolute fury that the lead group simply had no response.
Do you have any favorite rider nicknames to share or have you made up a nickname or two you would like to propose for a rider?
It was great to see Christian Vandevelde finish in the lead group which moved him up to 3rd overall. He looked relaxed and content as he crossed the finish line. Here's hoping that Christian continues to show his climbing form tomorrow on the Col du Tourmalet and Huatacam. He is clearly capable of being there.
Will Frischkorn stopped by after the finish and remarked that he was loving the grupetto days such as this when he could just ride tempo and not worry about going up the road. He called his move on Stage 3 'the suicide breakaway which never succeeds' and was pleased that all four riders in the group wanted to work hard enough to take it to the finish.
The big guns will be firing on the Col du Tourmalet and Huatacam tomorrow. Both these climbs have the capability to rip the race apart. Look for the majority of the action to come on the 8-mile 3700' climb of Huatacam to the finish.