Photos by Anita Van Crey, except where noted
What happens when you turn a girl who can see a church by daylight loose with a camera at a bike race? Well, lots of pictures of charming boys, that's what! Yeah, the pictures by the likes of Graham Watson are fantastic records of feats of strength and daring in the saddle, and often give good leg; but there's something about these friendlier pictures - a girl, her camera, and her subject in a more relaxed and candid mood - that I really enjoy. So, without further ado, here are some pictures that prove conclusively that cycling is a beautiful sport.
Truths which must be Universally Acknowledged:
To begin with, just a few you just can't argue with:
No one gets more votes for the délicieux distinction than US Postal/Berry Floor's George Hincapie. What is it about George that drives the girls so nuts? Is it that perfect hair and the big sweet smile? Is it his humility and his quiet service to his team? Could it be the way he's been riding like a rockstar all week long in the mountains? Whatever the reason, if the readers of this column had their way, George would be numero uno every single day. Who am I to argue with them?
Running a close second to Gorgeous George in this year's Tour de France babe watch is dreamy Italian speedster Alessandro Petacchi. Petacchi has had a great year with 10 grand tour stage victories thus far, and no doubt more to come in the Vuelta in September. Alas, our hero folded on the first climb of the tour this year, but the only thing the ladies are holding against him is the tragic fact that he will not be gracing the podium with his blue eyes, fancy Italian hairdo and nice... um... lycra.
The King of the Road, Lance Armstrong. Sure, he can seem brusque, and there's no question that he's a tough bastard, but Lance Armstrong is a legitimately remarkable person, and let's face it, he looks like a superhero. Back in the day, before he fought death and won, and the legend was born, he was a big, cocky tough-guy with big muscles and a few pimples; today, he's a compact, well-oiled machine with perfect skin and an incredible air of self-possession and gravitas. When he fixes the finishline in his steely blue sights and breaks out the grinta it's impossible not to marvel. Anita's caught him here looking serious, as he usually does at the Tour de France. Ladies and Gents, I have a strong feeling that he's well on his way to a glorious number 5 in Paris.
Finally, we don't have a picture of the real hero of the 2003 Tour de France, Tyler Hamilton, but as I said before, he is never leaving this column. Tyler has amazed us all week long with a brave and remarkable ride after a crash that took out his right collarbone on stage 1. Despite a lot of pain, Hamilton soldiered on, at first just hoping to give what he could to support teammate Carlos Sastre in return for good service given in the past, and then re-emerging as a genuine contender for the podium in Paris. All the while, he has been humble, unassuming, and genuine. To quote DP reader Lorna, "Is there anyone who is as sweet or as tough as that guy? The man is amazing." Chapeau, Tyler!
Charm, Charm and More Charm:
Photo by Alexandra
Jan Ullrich. To quote Dieter, Saturday Night Live's inimitable host of German talk show Sprockets, "he's so beautiful and angular!" More than few of us ladies are as happy as little girls to see him riding so strong this year in Le Tour. Der Kaiser has been riding like a true hardman for years, but he won our hearts bigtime in 2001, when he was beat, but never gave up the fight. Jan's been on the ropes this past year, but he's always kept his dignity in tact, and I am still searching for photographic evidence that he was ever fat. Bottomline: those long, freckled legs are délicieux!
Rabobank's Michael Boogerd: biggest smile in the history of the world.
Photo by Todd Kohli
Ok, this one wasn't taken in Paris this year, but Viatcheslav Ekimov gets a lot of votes around here. At 37 years old, Ekimov has just extended his contract with US Postal/Berry Floor for another year, and none of us at Crazy Jane Headquarters are going to sqwak. Eki is hot.
Fassa Bortolo's Ivan Basso: The White Jersey is rarely wrong!
Is it ok if we include two of Jose Luis "Chechu" Rubiera? Chechu is a sleeper favorite with the ladies, and I couldn't pick just one! Venga, Chechu!
FDJeux.com's Bradley McGee and his daughter, both in yellow. Cute!
Ah yes. Lotto-Domo's Axel Merckx. I'll say no more....
Quickstep's always charming Servais Knaven.
Telekom's Santiago Botero is having a rough ride this year, but the pale-eyed Colombian is still looking good... even if he is wearing that dreadful pink costume.
Fast Freddy Rodriguez is all, as I have said before, Latin charm. Born in Bogota, Colombia, he's an American go-getter with ambition to spare; but he has just the smallest hint of naughtiness, hot weather and siesta in that smile. He has the upright, straight-waisted, trim posture of a matador, and those pointy eyebrows? You go, Fred.
iBanesto.com's Denis Menchov: I know we've been over this, but I'm happy to have another look...
Yeah, normally Gilberto Simoni is not really a favorite here, but I'm including him because this hairdo that is so popular with britpop royalty and international superstar footballers is absolutely delightful.
The WHO KNEW?! Category
Since cycling is a sport in which 200 athletes with varying degrees of skill and speed compete on so many teams, usually wearing helmets, glasses and other accessories that can obscure their charms, there are lots of guys whose names we only hear in passing, and whose faces we never see, but when you do...
Could AG2R's young Nicolas Portal be any cuter?
How about FDJeux.com's charming Nicolas Fritsch?
I know I questioned the wisdom of the hairdo on iBanesto.com's very strong Vladimir Karpet's face, and I stand by that. Personally, I'd also go for shorter hair, less jewelry, and a reconsideration of the length of his sideburns... but, still... good raw material.
Euskatel Euskadi - The Best Kept Secret in the Peloton?
Iban Mayo leapt out on his own to ride to victory on the Alpe D'Huez, to the delight of all: nerdy boy cycling fans who got all gooey about his mountain climbing prowess, and girls, who had long been aware that Mr. Mayo is délicieux . Since then, it's come to my attention that many members of the Euskatel Euskadi Team are, well... not bad, really! Is anyone else sensing a Latin bias in this column?
...And I couldn’t pick, so Time Trialler Deluxe Haimar Zubeldia gets two. I love the eyebrows!
Back to regularly scheduled programming tomorrow! Special thanks to Anita Van Crey for her intrepid evidence gathering! As always, the Crazy Jane Panel of Experts welcomes your suggestions! E-mail them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org!