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.