What's Cool In Road Cycling

Pro Bike Riders Meet the Animal Kingdom

Stars and their pets: Not the usual race dissection or in-depth rider interview, but today Ed Hood has a look at the pets of the ‘stars of the road’. From donkeys to pigs, with parrots and dogs thrown in for good measure.

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Alejandro Valverde’s dog ‘Piti’ was quite famous

The other day I posted a couple of pics I took of the ‘Tashkent Terror,’ Djamolidine Abdoujaparov at the finish of the 1992 Vuelta in Madrid. My friend, Mike Curtis reminded me that the demon sprinter was an unlikely but committed bird fancier, Mike also reminded me that one of my Italian heroes of a few years back liked his donkeys.

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One of my Italian heroes of a few years back liked his donkeys

The grey matter went into gear, I compared notes with PEZ editor, Alastair Hamilton and for your entertainment we present; ‘Pro bike riders meet the Animal Kingdom.’ Let’s start with ‘man’s best friend,’ the canine.

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Yukiya Arashiro and photographer Miwa Iijima’s dog Corin, can be seen at a lot of bike races

I like Pippo Ganna, I’ve always had soft spot for big, strong time tester/pursuiters but the man from beautiful Verbania on the banks Lago di Maggiore really gained my seal of approval when, despite being part of the super-focussed, super-serious INEOS squadra he found time to play with his dog Mia, mid-Giro. I love the man.

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Ganna and his dog on the Giro

But not everyone has a dog just for companionship and fun, French double Paris-Roubaix and GP Plouay winner, Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle was, and probably still is a man for the hunting and was often pictured off season complete with bandolier, shotgun and faithful dog in pursuit of game.

Gilbert Duclos-Lasalle
ProCycling article on Gilbert Duclos-Lasalle

But not all dog stories are light and fuffy, PEZ editor, Alastair Hamilton who’s a former mechanic with the Raleigh team gave me this next gem; the late Paul Sherwen – who was the Raleigh manager at the time – had a Doberman called, ‘Beaujolais’. Just prior to a big race in the UK, one of Sherwen’s riders, Adrian Timmis ‘crept up’ on the beast, startled him and Beaujolais responded by sinking his teeth into Mr. Timmis. Motto of the story, ‘never sneak up on a Doberman!’

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Adrian and Beaujolais

And to close on our four legged friends; the Tour de France 2008 and Cadel Evans has just lost the maillot jaune, a camera man gets too close to the Mr. Evan’s dog, Molly; ‘Don’t stand on my dog or I cut your head off,’ the ex-jersey holder tells the offender. The Aussie later tried to make light of the incident by marketing, ‘Don’t stand on my dog!’ T-shirts. However, judging by the look in Cuddles eyes when he made the pronouncement, if there had been a machete handy. . .

‘Cuddles’

‘Back in the day,’ our Buddy, Stevie subscribed to the Belgian ‘Sport 70’ magazine, alongside the inevitable Eddy, Freddy and Roger pieces there would be Jacky Ickx the motorsports legend and Eddy Lejeune the famous trials motor cyclist – but also ancient guys in three piece suits with watch chains and cloth caps who bred and raced pigeons. Pigeon racing was a huge sport in Belgium, even down to life time bans for guys who were convicted of ‘kitting up’ their birds – but that’s another story. . .

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Billy Bilsland – Champion on a bike and with his pigeons

Scottish cycling legend Billy Bilsland ‘got into’ the ‘doos’ as we call them in Scotland, during his time in Belgium, he had a pigeon loft in the back garden and the last I heard was still racing his feathered friends.

Djamolidine Abdoujaparov has tried flying also

Another man who was a very unlikely pigeon ‘fancier,’ was the ‘Tashkent Terror,’ Djamolidine Abdoujaparov, points classification winner in the Giro, Tour and Vuelta. Despite his fearsome reputation, I met him at the Worlds in Ponferrada a few years ago, he was a lovely man.

Djamolidine Abdoujaparov pigeons
Abdou and his ‘doos’

Sticking with our avian friends, when the late Michele Scarponi went out training, Frankie the parrot would appear, and perch on his shoulder accompanying the Astana man on his ride. After the Italian died, Frankie waited in vain at their usual rendez-vous spot for his friend to appear. . .

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Michele and Frankie

When Dave and I used to go the Giro we used to see, Marzio Bruseghin fans wearing hats with donkey ears on them, we had to investigate this phenomenon. It transpired that ‘Bruz,’ who was a ‘man of the mountains,’ with the constitution of a bear, ran a donkey sanctuary. Despite his interests in the animal kingdom, Bruz still found time to win the Italian time trial championship and made the Giro podium. Dave and I miss the man.

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Marzio Bruseghin loves his donkeys

It’s a short hop from donkeys to horses. Despite being one of the fastest sprinters on the planet Belgium’s Freddy Maertens couldn’t get the better of Fakir du Vivier in a bike versus trotting horse duel at Amiens in July 1977, Freddy should have been at the Tour de France but was still in plaster after his crash in the Giro – that can’t have helped his sprinting. The embarrassment of defeat would have been eased though by the healthy wad of Euros he received for this day out.

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Freddy Maertens raced Fakir du Vivier

French sprinter, Jimmy Casper too raced and lost to a trotting horse over 500m in Amiens in 2011 but the Soja Sun, Tour stage winner Frenchman had ‘issues’ with traction on the flat trotting track.

Jimmy Casper – Bike vs Horse

Former US pro Mike Engleman wasn’t a bad bike rider with stage wins in the Coors Classic – where he finished on the GC podium, stages in the Herald Sun Tour and a top 10 finish in the Worlds individual time trial championship. But the man likes his equines, telling me; “I am the third generation in my family in the horse world, I grew up in a stables. I have six Quarterhorses/Paints (bred of American horse, ed) and one four year old off the track thoroughbred that was fast, but got injured so I picked him up to heal him, and keep him from some sort of bad fate.” One serious horseman.

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Thibaut Pinot and his goats

Sticking with four legs – but not as much speed, how about Thibaut Pinot and his goats? The enigmatic French climber and girlfriend Charlotte Patat at last count had two goats, Kim and Quentine, not to mention four donkeys, chickens and some cows. The beasts have their own Instagram account and there’s talk of a range of leisure wear. It all helps take Thibaut’s mind off le Tour. . .

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Hoban’s Estele

Then there’s Barry Hoban’s cow; when the Englishman won a mountain stage to Sallances in 1968, part of his prize for the day was a cow, Estele, who was happy to pose with Barry on her back. Like the good pro he is, Baz sold her – there being no provision for livestock in the GB team vehicles – but kept her cowbell.

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Dan Craven’s pig

And finally, when you hear riders talking about a, ‘pig of a day,’ perhaps they’d ridden the Tro Bro Leon where the rider who wins and the best placed Breton rider receive a piglet. The race poster features a great image of ‘Dan from Nam,’ – Dan Craven holding a little pink cutie. . .

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