The Wild Men of the Bunch: The peloton has its characters, but cycling is such a hard sport that having a wild time is not a good idea. On the other hand there are a few riders who have managed to have a good time between racing. Ed Hood has his pick of the ‘Peloton Party Animals’.
Gilberto Simoni didn’t make the list
It’s said that former world champion and Primavera winner, Maurizio Fondriest’s idea of a ‘wild night’ was to cosy up in bed and watch a DVD on his laptop. But we’re not here to talk, ‘Monastic,’ the subject of today’s outpourings is, ‘party animals.’ How much more could they have done if they’d left off the sauce, the fast cars and the ladies?
Jacques Anquetil – ‘a good pheasant, some champagne and a woman.’
Jacques Anquetil: ‘Maitre Jacques,’ five time Tour winner, Giro and Vuelta winner, and the ‘chronoman’ supreme with no less than nine Grand Prix des Nations wins; and this was no 40 or 50K ‘jolly,’ 142 kilometres, ‘alone and unpaced.’ But the Norman liked the finer things in life, he owned a riverside chateau, drove hot cars, wore the finest threads and was a real ‘bon viveur.’ His most famous quote on the subject is; ‘To prepare for a race there is nothing better than a good pheasant, some champagne and a woman.’
Not a porn star in this photo, but there are photos out there
Mario Cipollini: Should we include him? Despite his claim that; ‘If I weren’t a professional cyclist, I’d be a porn star,’ no one wins 42 Giro stages after partying all night. However, the ‘party animal’ image grabbed the headlines for his sponsors and it is true that he never won the race which was made for him – Paris-Tours. He’d been on the beach for weeks by that time of the season.
‘Party boy’ Colombo
Gabriele Colombo: The 1996 Milan-Sanremo was Max Sciandri’s to lose – and he did just that. It was the Italian with the boyish good looks and flowing locks who ‘stole’ the win. I put it to Sciandri that Colombo never really won that much before or since; ‘That’s true but he was a classy rider, he liked to party though – the good life, you know?’ So you can party AND win the Primavera, if not much else. . .
Hair too long for a real pro – Thomas Dekker
Thomas Dekker: Tirreno-Adriatico is a prestigious race, won by some of the biggest names in the sport – De Vlaeminck, Moser, Rominger, Contador, Nibali. . . Dekker won it as a second year professional, he was class. The ‘but’ is that the good looking Dutchman was also a party animal with perhaps the, ’too long for a real pro’ hair giving him away, fast cars, drink, women and the inevitable drugs. Not just for partying but for his profession too, resulting in a two year suspension. Read his book, The Descent then list the contemporaries he names who won’t be exchanging Xmas cards with him.
Class act and the best name in cycling – Fons De Wolf
Fons De Wolf: Another man whose hair gave a clue as to his extra-curricular activities. But few men have looked cooler on a bicycle than Fons – and he could talk the talk when he was in the mood; two wins in Het Volk, Milan-Sanremo, the Tour of Lombardy, Trofeo Baracchi and stages in the Vuelta and Tour de France. But his palmarès could have been so much broader had he liked the ‘good life’ less. Ironically, for a ‘party animal,’ he’s now an undertaker.
Robert Dill Bundi – Top performer, but…
Robert Dill Bundi: Twice a world junior pursuit champion, Olympic pursuit champion in Moscow 1980, the tall Swiss was pure class. But it was, ‘too much too young’ for the man from Chippis, as with many precocious athletes, maintaining the discipline that’s required to function at the highest levels of the sport is difficult if the ‘lifestyle of denial’ begins in the early teens. There was a Giro stage win, whilst on the track he was a good performer in the six days and bagged a world keirin title in 1984; but there’s a clue to his mind set by looking at the day he abandoned the Tour – then asked the driver of the sag wagon to stop at an off licence so he could buy a bottle of vino.
Dmitri Konychev – Style points for the glasses
Dmitri Konychev: One of the first Russian riders to ride in the professional peloton he burst onto the scene with a silver medal, behind Greg Lemond in the epic 1989 Worlds. But perhaps it shouldn’t have been such a surprise, he’d won the ‘Baby’ Giro the previous year and was a classy rider. He spent a lot of his career riding for Italian teams, a nation where there are many distractions – beaches, discos, nice cars and those big haired beautiful Donnas. Dima was famed for pulling a rabbit from the contract renewal hat at just the right time, leaving his DS’s shaking their heads and thinking; ‘why can’t he ride like that all the time?’ as he pulled off a late season big win to secure his future for another year.
Nico Mattan – Liked a drink
Nico Mattan: I interviewed Nico once, after a stage at the Three Days of De Panne, a race he won in 2001, I enquired; ‘can I get you a Coke or mineral water, Nico?’ The Belgian looked at me quizzically; ‘no, a Carlsberg!’ After he won the 2005 Gent-Wevelgem he headed straight to his supporters club where he; ‘danced on the tables into the small hours.’ No warm-down on the rollers or ice baths for that man.
Merckx would have more than tea
Eddy Merckx: Despite taking his profession very seriously, Merckx’s appetite was legendary. The reason his weight ballooned after he retired was that he was still eating like a horse but not doing the 300 kilometre training runs to burn off the dreaded calories. And he liked a drink. On the French criterium circuit – which were usually ‘choreographed’ there’s a tradition of partying after the race. Maitre Jacques Anquetil was nearing the end of his career with Merckx the rising star. The French star reckoned that whilst his bike racing prowess may be on the wane, he could still out drink the upstart Belgian. Lesser men slipped quietly off to bed whilst Jacques and Eddy went at it until one of them had to be carried to his bed – it wasn’t Eddy.
Stuart O’Grady: Is a nice guy and was a top rider; an Olympic champion on the track and a winner of Paris-Roubaix, not to mention a Tour de France yellow jersey wearer. But like many Antipodeans, he does like a beer. Folklore has it that having had, ‘one too many’ during a stage race, he found himself locked out of the team hotel and had to sleep in a team car. The next stage was a time trial, he was in such a bad way that he had to be assisted onto his bike. Not only did he get round the time test, he won the race overall. Legend.
Bruno Risi – Handy with beer
Bruno Risi: Seven times a world champion on the track between the points race and madison, Olympic silver medallist in the madison and fifth in the all-time six day wins rankings with 61 victories, the mulleted Swiss star was also handy with beer, wine and Schnapps. When runners like me were forcing ourselves to stay awake to get the washing done, Bruno and his brother-in-law and six day partner Kurt Betschaert would be using up their surplus adrenaline.
Fredy Schmidtke (left) – had an eye for the girls
Fredy Schmidtke: I was there that cold night at Leicester Velodrome in 1982 when the unthinkable happened, East German Kilometre King – he’d won the last five world championships straight – the late Lothar Thoms ‘parked up’ on the last bend and the late ‘Fast Fredy’ became champion of the world. Freddy went on to take Olympic kilometre gold in LA in 1984. But for all his successes on the bike, cycling was well down his list of ‘favourite things’ coming somewhere around fifth after girls, more girls, cars and more cars. . .
The sad story of Frank VDB
Frank Vandenbroucke: He was cool, pure class, talented, winner of Het Volk, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Gent-Wevelgem, Paris-Nice, GP Plouay, the Scheldeprijs. . . Adored by the Belgian public, the late ‘Franky Boy’ was a classic case of ‘too much too young,’ living the life of a professional cyclist from his early teens. As his career spluttered amid doping investigations his column inches became more about nights on the town, speeding fines with his Porsche and his tumultuous relationship with his wife, rather than palmarès. A sad way for a wonderful athlete’s career to end.
Not quite the ‘Wild Bunch’