Friday Group Ride #473

Friday Group Ride #473

Words get stuck in my head. I am not sure how or why this happens. For example, I might read the word ‘sacerdotal’ in a book, and then for three or four days it echoes in my mind. I’m sitting at a light thinking, sacerdotal, sacerdotal, sacerdotal, until I’m basically sick of it, and then it goes on a bit longer, finally disappearing as mysteriously as it arrived.

This happens a lot with names. There is a guy who owns a tile and marble business near my home, and he has a van with his name on it. Sometimes I see the van and swear out loud, because it’s likely to cause his name to cascade through my addled mind for a week. His name is Saverio LaFauci.

That brings me to this week’s Group Ride. I was trying to figure out which cyclist had the best name. In running down the list, I realized that it’s really hard to separate a name from the context you learned it in. What I mean is, Fausto Coppi, Gino Bartali, Laurent Fignon, Marco Pantani, Jean Stablinski, Jacques Anquetil, etc., could only be the names of cyclists, because I can’t cleave their names from the history I know.

Obviously, Jean Stablinski could be (and was) a miner. Fignon could have been a farmer. Pantani might have been a waiter. But no, actually, in my head, if you’re called Fausto, you must also ride bikes. Even Greg LeMond is the name of a cyclist, and only a cyclist.

Lance Armstrong is one exception. He could have been (and maybe was) a professional wrestler.

Names have great power for me. For a while I was developing a story about a fictional cyclocross racer named Bernd Faerts. He smoked a lot and raced only a little, but all the top pros cited him as the best rider they’d ever seen. He lived in a camper van, and his name was a poop joke. I didn’t get that far with that one. Imagine.

As a writer, I do things the wrong way. I often start a piece with a title and little more, rather than having some grand idea and fleshing it out fully and then titling it at the end. No, I tend to have words and phrases occur to me, and then I stare into them as deeply as I can, and sometimes a workable piece falls out. Names have that same power for me.

And so, this week’s Group Ride asks, which cyclist, from any period, any discipline, any country, has the best cycling name and why? I’ll go, randomly, with Lars Boom. He was the sort who could real blow up a race, you know? You get extra points for proposing your own fictional rider and getting his or her name stuck in my head.

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20 comments

  1. Parker

    While cycling it’s lines from songs, not individual words, that get stuck in my own head. Until they disappear as mysteriously as they appeared.

    Similar to “Bernd Faerts” as the invented name of a cyclocross racer, a friend sometimes writes “Dr. Ben Dover” on nametags for her physician husband.

    How about “Flash” as the invented name for a standing rider whose shorts sometimes hang up on their saddle?

    1. Jon

      Yes! First name that popped into my head as well. How could he have ever been anything other than a bike racer?

  2. Fausto

    Anything that starts with “Van de…” sounds pretty fast to me. The Italians all sound like climber last names. Thinking about the three kings who all have health problems right now; The Cannibal, the Gypsy and a guy named Pou Pou. The nicknames don’t stick like they used to.

  3. Stephen Barner

    Joop Zoetemelk. Granted, Joop is a nickname, but what kid wouldn’t like to have the name “Joop”? Add a last name that every teacher mispronounces and you have a total score, especially when your real first name is the quite respectable “Hendrik”. Anquetil was my first choice, but he had already been mentioned. He had the perfect name for a Tour de France champion, and his movie star looks must have sent many a madamoiselle’s knees aquiver. Then there are Christophe, Binda and Maes, who I knew well as toe straps and handlebar bends long before learning they had been famous riders.

    1. carl duellman

      I second Joop Zoetemelk. It’s a fun name. I also like saying baba ganoush although that has nothing to do with cycling.

  4. Steven Down

    Wout van Aert
    Marco Mercato
    Sylvian Chavanel
    Joseba Beloki

    Each redolent of a cycling culture. All infinitely easier on the ear than Bradley bleeding Wiggins!

  5. Matt D

    Rein Taaramae , When i first heard his name it intrigued me , kinda flows .There is supposed to be 2 dots over the last a . I don’t know how to do that .

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