(Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

I wish I had never seen the Wout van Aert mascot

A wobbly menace's big day out.

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Wout van Aert has been a busy boy this Tour de France. He’s won a stage, dragged stricken teammates back into the race, worn the yellow jersey for four days, set off on a day-long escape because why not, been accused by peers of “playing with our balls.

All of that, understandably enough, has made him the centre of attention – and at the start of stage 6, in the Belgian city of Binche, the scale of Wout van Aert’s celebrity was made abundantly clear when he was confronted with a doughier version of himself – a Wout van Aert mascot. 

Watching from afar, mascots are typically here one moment, gone the next – a glimpse on the screen, a figure in the frame of a photo. Such is not the case with the Wout van Aert mascot, who is extremely persistent. From a smattering of Belgian Instagram profiles, it was possible to painstakingly piece together some of his movements through the day.

First things first, he lurked outside the team’s lodgings (Congres Hotel Mons, sample Google review: “Very nice hotel however breakfast is for the price all fur coat and no knickers” 🤷‍♂ ), and found some onlookers to give him a peck on the cheek: 

He did the time-honoured tyre squeeze of a team bike on a roof: 

He wobbled his big gapey mouth and enormous neckless head through a revolving door (although unfortunately didn’t get stuck):

He confronted the real flesh and blood specimen outside the team bus: 

Not content with that sighting, he went to the stage start and loitered about there, too.

Then he found Wout van Aert’s wife, Sarah de Bie – loving mother, parenting podcaster – and got a cuddle: 

As the real Wout van Aert returned from signing on, immediately before setting off on a day-long breakaway, he pulled down his N95 for an affectionate kiss with his wife.

And, sure enough, the mascot was standing there, too – just watching the whole thing. Wordless, enormous, wobbly and wrinkle-armed:  

And at the stage finish, this fabric menace was back at it, lurking on Van Aert who now had a new jersey:

In recent weeks I have developed something of a professional interest in the mascots of the WorldTour – a disparate field that ranges from hangers-on in the Tour de France promotional caravan to COVID-superspreading Swiss foxes. From that I have learned enough to know, at a cellular level, that I do not like the Wout van Aert mascot.

I do not like his gormless gait, his gigantic head. I do not like his billowy limbs. I do not like his three-weeks-out-of-date Belgian champions kit. I do not like that in researching the Wout van Aert mascot I learnt that he is a marketing initiative of a Belgian insurance company that is trying to make insurance fun, and that Wout van Aert is a Belgian insurance company ambassador.

I especially don’t like that, in looking for more pictures of the Wout van Aert mascot, I came across something which will haunt my dreams:

Photo by Marco Bertorello/AFP via Getty Images

Beautiful, no? A Belgian superstar who’s spent the day in the break, falling exhausted into the wholesome embrace of his beloved while the media of the world looks on. Nicely-framed shot, nice people.


You see the dastardly duo lurking on the edge of frame. One that looks like a female superhero called The Ivy Siren or something, and the other one who’s just a nasty little creep who probably rides around on a hoverboard snatching purses from old ladies:

Creepy mascots of pro cycling, I’m onto you. Stop watching Wout van Aert making out with his wife. It’s weird.

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