The Jersey Pocket Podiums – #4 – Cycling Nicknames

In a sport where written newspaper reports defined the action for the first six decades of it’s existence, nicknames were an important tool for sketching the rider profiles and bringing the faceless coureurs to life in the imagination of the readers. Many nicknames mocked the riders as much as they celebrated them – consider Elefantino, Dr.Teeth, The Dwarf and Clogface – but they have retained their power through the years and many are still used today despite their owners being either long retired or buried. Sadly, cyclist’s nicknames have diminished in modern times as television has superseded the need for the floridly descriptive writings of those early years. Here are three of my favourites from across the decades:

3rd spot: Thor Hushovd. The God of Thunder. 

Hushovd’s nickname gets on the list because it effortlessly works in many different ways. It’s Nordic heritage quickly convey both his Scandinavian roots and blond haired, blue-eyed, muscular build. The reference to Thunder evokes his powerful sprinting style and the deification is well-suited to a former world champion. It’s a near perfect encapsulation of the man and his work.


2nd spot: Charly Gaul. The Angel of the Mountains.

The lyrical aspects of nicknames have rarely surpassed that of 1950’s climber extraordinaire Gaul. Prepared to concede massive time gaps on flat stages, the Angel simply took flight when the road went upwards and twice overhauled enormous deficits to win both the Giro and the Tour in this way. He was able to operate on a completely different level from his rivals and it must have seemed like he was ascending to Heavenly Glory as he exploded away from them. Sadly the Angel of the Mountains later turned into the Hermit of the Forest as he became totally reclusive in his later years; living alone in a hut deep in the Ardennes for almost two decades until re-integrating into society a short time before his death in 2005.

Charly Gaul

1st spot: Bernard Hinault. The Badger.

In it’s French rendering “Le Blaireau”, Hinault’s nickname also captures all the core elements of his ancestry, his physical looks and his racing style. His Gallic-ness was best embodied by his forthright stance in the French champion’s jersey in his debut Tour in 1978. Simultaneously battling his rivals, the parcours, the weather, the system, and occasionally the fans as well, his face was eternally set into a glowering granite grimace; eyes blazing and teeth permanently bared like a cornered Brock who knows that ‘Fight’ (and not ‘Flight) is the only option. His ‘never surrender’ attitude was always to the fore, but never more so than in his Monument wins at Paris-Roubaix 1981 and through the much mythologised blizzard of the 1980 Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Devastatingly simple, Hinault is now so synonymous with his nickname that it has come to define him more than any other in cycling history.




A good list of nicknames can be found here. Let’s hear your favourites and your suggestions for the current peloton.


The Jersey Pocket Podiums – #3 – Cycling Films

It was the BFI’s Bicycle Film Festival last week and The Armstrong Lie is hitting the screens next month so it seems like a good time for a Jersey Pocket Podium for cycling films:

3rd spot: Breaking Away – Peter Yates – 1979.

Capturing the exotic appeal of Continental road racing (as seen through the eyes of a young American) Breaking Away warmly mixes the key teenage obsessions of idols, girls and friendships.


2nd spot: Belleville Rendezvous / The Triplets of Belleville – Sylvain Chomet – 2003.

Wonderfully eccentric in terms of plot and vision, Chomet’s animated extravaganza about a kidnapped Tour de France star remains burned on the retinas long after the film finishes.


1st spot: A Sunday in Hell. 1976. Jorgen Leth.

Merckx, Moser and De Vlaeminck do battle in the Paris-Roubaix Spring Classic but the pavé of Northern France is the real star of this exceptional documentary.


The Jersey Pocket Podiums – #2 – Classic Cycling Jerseys

First Place. Peugeot

An all time classic. From Tommy Simpson to Robert Millar, riders wearing the iconic chequered flag jersey have looked the business. It was the first kit I wanted as a kid and I still wear one most weeks. Best matched with plain black shorts and a Peugeot cycling cap – with the peak turned upwards, of course.

peugeot jersey

Second Place. Bic

Love the sparseness here. Bold colour, simple logo. Job done. Not quite so well known as some other teams of the era but Luis Ocana won the 1970 Vuelta and 1973 Tour in the orange of Bic. Best paired with jet black hair and an epic tan.

bic jersey

Third Place. Renault /Renault Elf / Systeme U

The hint of the Hacienda’s famous black and yellow warning stripes helps this one into third spot. The design morphed subtly into the Renault Elf jersey and then more radically into the Systeme U jersey, both of which are great in their own right. Best paired with a matching headband a la Fignon.

renault gitane jersey

Honourable Mention – La Vie Claire

Hinault. Lemond. ’86. Enough Said.

la vie claire jersey


Jersey Illustrations courtesy of:


The Jersey Pocket Podiums. #1: The Best Names in the Pro Peloton

3rd Spot:

Lars Boom – Belkin Pro Cycling

You have got to ride fast if your name is Lars Boom. His middle names are Anthonius Johannes. Really, they are.

2nd Spot:

Boy Van Poppel – Vacansoleil-DCM

One of two sons to Dutch former pro cyclist, Jean-Paul Van Poppel. Boy and his brother Danny both ride for the same team whilst Dad is their Directeur Sportif. Cute.

1st Spot:

Steele Von Hoff – Garmin Sharp 

Nicknamed ‘Stainless’, Steele Von Hoff is an Australian sprinter. Apparently he is as hard as nails too, once completing a stage with ‘half his face hanging off’. Sounds a bit like Terminator to me, “I need your Lycra, your cleats and your Cervelo.”