The nickname—sobriquet, alias, gloss—is a time-honored device used to increase or solidify fellowship between people. In the case of professional sports, using the nicknames of our heroes engenders a feeling of familiarity between us and them (on our part, at least). Cycling’s long list of colorful characters has resulted in quite a few notable handles among it’s ranks. We picked a few that stood out, but there is no way to include all the worthy examples, let alone declare five better than the rest. So instead of a Top Five Cycling Nicknames list, here’s a Five Great Nicknames List.
Cadel Evans—Cuddles. While the definitive origin of Cadel’s fuzzy moniker is disputed, it has been posited to stem from a terse post-race interview, or perhaps an alliterative ode to his less than warm and empathetic race-day demeanor. In any case, irony is always a great foundation upon which to build a sticky nickname.
Eddy Merckx—The Cannibal. What a great name for a competitive athlete. The simple fact of knowing that the guy lining up next to you would just as soon eat your flesh than lose to you must have been worth several stage-win time bonuses. As for the origin of Eddy’s fear-inducing nickname, the generally accepted story comes from 1969. After his first Tour win, when he also captured the Green Jersey and the King of the Mountains Jersey, a Peugeot teammate, Christian Raymond, told his 12-year-old daughter that Merckx would not let anybody else win a single franc, let alone compete for wins or Jerseys. “Daddy, he’s a cannibal,” the girl said. Merckx also feasted on the souls of his competitors, such as…
Frans Verbeeck—The Flying Milkman. Founder of cycling clothing distributer Vermarc, Verbeeck captured over 160 career wins, and was considered one of the top few cyclists in the world at his peak. Looking back, Frans could be touted as the Original Hardman due to his brutal training rides which took place in whatever conditions the day presented. After his first go-round with professional cycling left him somewhat disenchanted, he drove a milk truck for the family business, but soon returned to the pro ranks. Although he was considered to be the only rider capable of beating Eddy Merckx in a big Classic, he was never able to, finishing second to Merckx several times in the Spring of 1973, and again in 1975. If not for Merckx, Verbeeck would have been one of the greatest classics racers that had ever lived.
Davis Phinney—Cash Register. The second American to win a stage at the Tour de France, Phinney is credited with 328 career victories, the most for an American racer. Phinney garnered the nickname of “Cash Register” thanks to his almost automatic victories in sprint primes. As a member of the legendary mid-eighties 7-Eleven team, Phinney helped pave the way for future American cycling super stars. Phinney’s son, Taylor, is currently on the BMC roster. The Davis Phinney Foundation sponsors programs that provide information, tools and inspiration to help Parkinson’s sufferers live happy lives.
Jacquie Phelan—Alice B. Toeclips. Inspired by the inspirational Alice B. Toklas (look her up if you don’t already know), this fabulous nickname is a self-gloss that erupted one day “the instant my pedal stroke was fortified by the chrome Christophe cage.” As Jacquie herself states, “Alice B. Toeclips is not dead. She wasn’t born, either, come to think of it. She spontaneously combusted in a corner of my brain that takes in oxygen and water and spits out sparks and really bad wordplay.” Jacquie (sorry, Alice) spent years squashing racer’s egos—male racer’s egos—by excelling in both road and mountain bike races at the professional level. Inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 1988, Jacquie raced the same bike, “Otto,” made by her husband Charlie Cunningham for nine years.
Bonus nickname— Riccardo Riccò: The Pharmacist.