Gone are the days when professional cyclists were hired and fired for their ability to simply do good things with their legs. Now cycling is a business – athletes are meant to be entertainers, brand spokespersons, media personalities, idols.
That means you get things like Remco Evenepoel signing endorsement deals with Pizza Hut, custom Peter Sagan showerheads, and all kinds of KoOkInEsS on social media platforms.
However, perhaps the most immediate tool available to a cycling team’s marketing department is the humble GIF. Over the past few years, cycling teams around the world have embraced these brief looping video captures as a way to build brand awareness. Now many teams – especially the French and Dutch ones, for some reason – have dedicated channels on the GIF goldmine, Giphy.
Which, in a roundabout way, brings us back to cyclists; that they are good in the legs and bad in the arms. Giphy has a rich archive of GIFs demonstrating the bewilderment of professional cyclists when asked to do things with their arms – as well as those who are totally happy to go for it.
Here are 10 of my personal favorites.
10 cyclists, 10 GIFs
- Tom Scully’s three-phase shrug. It’s subtle, but there’s a lot to love about Wreck It Ralph’s hands, the distinct phases of the shrug, the pleading look in the big Kiwi’s eyes. Especially the more you watch it.
2. The dying smile at Wout Van Aert. Wout Van Aert has often struck me as a very nice and very talented man, and he is also responsible for what may be the weirdest cycling-related GIF on the Internet. But because everyone wants a piece of Wout, Wout probably spends a lot of time in a studio making stupid things like GIFs for his team. And I think at that exact moment, if you really look deep into his soul, you can see that Wout was probably tired of clenching his fists for that particular day.
3. Benoît Cosnefroy does anything. While not a prolific GIF maker, Benoit Cosnefroy has a stellar strike rate because he’s not afraid to commit. This one’s wobble and flowing hair make it a standout. Fascinating tricks from the happy little Frenchman.
4. Sam Oomen trying not to gag on this cold and crispy 0%. Many teams have jumped on the non-alcoholic beer sponsor bandwagon, and Jumbo-Visma probably landed the biggest fish of all at Heineken. That doesn’t mean Sam Oomen likes it.
You can see it in the frown as he pulls the ring. You can practically feel the pungent fizz as he passes the adult malt drink between his cheeks – once, twice, three times. You can almost see his tired pixelated eyes water as he swallows it, looks at the camera and lies that “it’s okay”.
5. Valentin Madouas is either listening to some of the dumbest stoner jams, or genuinely agreeing with his media director, or maybe both. A search for Madouas’ fuzzed Spotify profile was fruitless, but I think it’s pretty clear what we’re talking about here, regardless.
6. Piet Allegaert read how to give a boost in a book. It’s the slowness of the deliberation, the slightly closed fist, the scrutinizing eyes, then the lowered left arm that does it for me:
7. The unbearable tension quivering in the crossed fingers of Thibaut Pinot. Unlike teammate Valentin Madouas above, Thibaut Pinot has more conventional tastes when it comes to four-legged mammals – less tamed Impala, more domesticated Cows. When away from his rustic exile, however, cycling’s No.1 goat enthusiast carries the weight of France’s hopes on his shoulders through every Tour de France. He obligingly expressed most of that tension in front of a green screen:
8. Guillaume Martin reading his own book before taking a hard pivot at the end. The Cofidis team leader is a published author and an alleged vampire – we know that – but that doesn’t mean for a second that the Cofidis leader will finish his GIFs the way you think.
9. David Gaudu is going through a crisis. It’s all in the eyes:
ten. Pierre Sagan, the the biggest and most prolific GIF artist in sportsfully committing. Sagan spent what must have been a very funny day in the Specialized Bicycles studio, and while this GIF makes it clear he was probably losing his mind at the end, he held it together long enough for this masterpiece. work. That’s why he earns a lot of money:
As you have seen, the professional cyclist GIF is a curious specimen. Forcing pro riders off their bikes into a studio, we see them squirm – or shine – in service to three-second clips of contrived emotion.
For the team, it’s a chance to make the Trojan a household name in the world’s social media chats. For runners, I think it’s probably A Bit of A Shit Time – a day spent shooting in a studio while a marketing exec yells “iiiit’s shoooooowtime!!!”
What about us, the target audience, looking for a pixelated video to accentuate our little bike jokes? We’re just drinking it all down.