The quiet indignity of the pro cyclist GIF

Or, 10 cyclists grappling with the off-bike demands of their job.

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Gone are the days when professional cyclists were hired and fired for their abilities to merely do good things with their legs. Now cycling is a business – athletes are expected to be performers, brand spokespeople, media personalities, idols. 

That means that you get things like Remco Evenepoel signing endorsement deals with Pizza Hut, personalised Peter Sagan showerheads, and all manner of KoOkInEsS on social media platforms.

Perhaps the most immediate tool at a cycling team’s marketing department’s disposal, however, is the humble GIF. Over the past few years, the cycling teams of the world have embraced these brief grabs of looped video are a vehicle to getting their brand out there. Now, many teams – especially the French and the Dutch ones, for whatever reason – have dedicated channels on the GIF goldmine, Giphy. 

Which, in a roundabout way, brings us back to cyclists; how they are good at legs, and bad at arms. Giphy has a rich archive of GIFs demonstrating the bewilderment among pro cyclists when they’re asked to do things with their arms – as well as those that are totally happy to just go for it.

Here are 10 of my personal favourites. 

10 cyclists, 10 GIFs

  1. Tom Scully’s three-phased shoulder shrug. It’s subtle, but there’s a lot to like in the Wreck It Ralph hands, the distinct phases of the shrug, the pleading look in the big Kiwi’s eyes. Especially the more you watch it.
New Zealand Idk Sticker by EF Education First for iOS & Android | GIPHY

2. The smile dying in Wout Van Aert. Wout Van Aert has often struck me as a very nice, very talented man, and he is also responsible for what may be the most strangely steamy cycling-related GIF on the internet. But because everyone wants a piece of Wout, Wout probably spends a lot of time in a studio doing stupid things like GIFs for his team. And I think at this precise moment, if you really look deep into his soul, you can see that Wout had probably had enough of pumping his fists for that particular day.

Tour De France Sport GIF by Team Jumbo-Visma - Find & Share on GIPHY

3. Benoît Cosnefroy doing whatever the hell this is. Although not a prolific GIF-maker, Benoit Cosnefroy has a stellar strike rate because he is not afraid to commit. The wibbly-wobbliness of this, and the flappy hair, make it a standout. Mesmerising stuff from the cheerful little Frenchman.

Happy Tour De France Sticker by AG2R CITROËN TEAM for iOS & Android | GIPHY

4. Sam Oomen trying not to gag on this crisp cold 0%er. Lots of teams have jumped on the alcohol-free beer sponsor bandwagon, and Jumbo-Visma has probably landed the biggest fish of them all in Heineken. That doesn’t mean that Sam Oomen likes it.

You can see it in the frown as he pulls the ring. You can practically feel the stinging fizz as he passes the adult malt beverage back and forth between his cheeks – once, twice, thrice. You can almost see his weary pixelated eyes watering as he swallows it, eyeballs the camera and lies that “it’s good”.

World Tour Drinking GIF by Team Jumbo-Visma - Find & Share on GIPHY

5. Valentin Madouas either listening to some of the foggiest-headed stoner jams, or earnestly agreeing with his media director, or maybe both. A search for Madouas’ fuzzed-out Spotify profile proved unsuccessful, but I think it’s pretty clear what we’re dealing with here regardless.

Bike Ok GIF by FDJ Sport - Find & Share on GIPHY

6. Piet Allegaert has read about how to give a thumbs up in a book. It’s the slow deliberation, the lightly clenched fist, the searching eyes, and then the dropped left arm that does it for me:

Bike Cycling Sticker by Team Cofidis - #CofidisMyTeam for iOS & Android | GIPHY

7. The unbearable quivering tension in Thibaut Pinot’s crossed fingers. Unlike his teammate Valentin Madouas above, Thibaut Pinot has more conventional tastes when it comes to four-legged mammals – less Tame Impala, more Domesticated Cows. When he’s away from his rustic exile, though, cycling’s #1 goat enthusiast carries the weight of France’s hopes on his shoulders each Tour de France. He obligingly expressed most of that tension in front of a green-screen:

Velo Cyclisme GIF by FDJ Sport - Find & Share on GIPHY

8. Guillaume Martin reading his own book before taking a hard pivot right at the end. The Cofidis team leader is a published author and alleged vampire – this much we know – but that doesn’t for a second mean this intellectual bloodsucker will end his GIFs in the way you think he will.

Bike Cycling Sticker by Team Cofidis - #CofidisMyTeam for iOS & Android | GIPHY

9. David Gaudu going through a crisis. It’s all in the eyes:

Bike Velo GIF by FDJ Sport - Find & Share on GIPHY

10. Peter Sagan, the greatest and most prolific GIF-artist in the sport, totally committing. Sagan spent what must have been a very funny day in the studio for Specialized Bicycles, and while this GIF makes it clear he was probably losing his mind by the end of it, he held it together long enough for this masterpiece. That’s why he gets the big bucks:

Excuse Me Sagan GIF by Specialized Bicycles - Find & Share on GIPHY

And ‘cut’

As you’ve seen, the pro cyclist GIF is a curious specimen. Forcing pro cyclists from their bikes into a studio, we see them squirm – or shine – in the service of three-second clips of contrived emotion.

For the team, it’s a chance to Trojan Horse some branding into the social media chats of the world. For the riders, I think it’s probably A Bit of A Shit Time – a day spent milling around in a studio while a marketing manager yells “iiit’s shoooooowtime!!!”

And for us, the target audience, looking for a pixelated video to accent our little bicycle banters? We’re just drinking it all up.

Pro Cycling Sport Sticker by EF Education First for iOS & Android | GIPHY

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