Minutes after podium presentation, prize plushies get squeezed onto the dash of team buses like so many UFO Catcher prizes and Beanie Babies in an Asian family’s car. What happens to these fuzzy trophies? I’ve seen photos of the winningest pros’ trophy rooms sadly devoid of cartoony pals. Does Alberto Contador cry himself to sleep with his many Credit Lyonnais Lions because he won’t win a Grand Tour after a RadioSchleck merger? Does Odessa use Levi’s Tour de Suisse Würth Bear as bait to train Bandit as attack dog? I’m afraid podium plushes go unloved after the champagne goes flat and recovery begins. All I want is to give them the snuggling they were born to get, so I present to you the Top 10 podium plushies I want to sleep with.
10. Credit Lyonnais Lion, Tour de France. Le lion en peluche may be the most coveted plush in professional cycling (Paris-Roubaix is regrettably too HTFU to award fuzzy dice cobblestones), but when I see his slightly apologetic smile and eagerly outstretched arms begging for a hug, I get douche chills. I’ve seen that smile and open arms before--it’s the guy who wants to bone you, but could only ask for a hug, savoring the way your hair smells or the way your boob grazed his arm. The Lion on the top podium step of Tour de France shouldn’t be groveling for attention; he should seize it, like a rider who sees an opportunity and attacks. (Just to be clear, do attack at a bike race, but don’t literally attack a girl, ok?) If I wake up with the Lion, the frustrating sight of his meek neediness guarantees I’ll start my day off in a pissy mood. No, Credit Lyonnais Lion, I don’t really want to sleep with you unless I puked on my favorite plush making it an ex-favorite (true childhood story), thereby upgrading you to a rebound snuggle pal.
9. Oversized Novelty Marabou Chocolate Bar, Tour of Denmark. No, a chocolate bar is not a plushie, technically, and I loathe the stereotype that women and chocolate are tight like that. But I see the ToD winner holding the giant chocolate bar and think of Tina Fey’s “Duncan Hines Brownie Husband” SNL parody ad. However, I see my tryst with Oversized Novelty Marabou Chocolate Bar ending more like the Bonnie Situation in Pulp Fiction: hurriedly sneaking brown-stained sheets into the trash and getting hosed off in the back yard by Mr. Wolf so I don’t look like the crazy single lady with, er, “German” sexual predilections or untamed bowels.
8. Tauron KOM Bull, Tour de Pologne. Tour de Pologne awards a humongous, unwieldy bull to the KOM jersey winner. I doubt a single Tauron Bull has made it out of Poland. It’s just too fucking big to stuff in a car, much less an overhead carry-on bin. I’m saddened by the thought that this jolly, hot pink Bull is even more unwanted than a girl baby in China. Please, if you’re considering adopting from foreign countries, give some thought to adopting the Tauron Bull. He would make a great husband, as in those pillows that have a back and arm rests. (Why “husband”? Do men not use those things?) I can absolutely see myself in bed, propped up in the Bull’s husbandly embrace, watching a glitchy stream of a shit small race like Tour de Pologne at some ungodly hour.
7. Generic Store-bought Teddy Bear, Profonde Stiphout. In reviewing podium plushies for this piece, I realized how many races like to award shitty trophies instead of a fuzzy potential bedmate. Back in 2010, Profonde Stiphout went to the store (too low rent for Build a Bear), bought a giant teddy, and handed it to Bram Tankink in a shopping bag. This act has the vibe of the day-before-Valentines/Anniversary panicked purchase of bear-holding-a-heart, which is all too human and all too common. Profonde Stiphout knew, however, that a crappy, electroplated trophy won’t keep you warm at night. It’s the “Fuck! We need a podium prize for our fixed post-Tour crit!!” thought that counts, and I’m more than willing to share my bed with cycling’s equivalent of the Shit Bitch Bear.
6. Pola the Bee, Tour de Pologne. There’s a lot of serious discussion about gender parity in cycling, which doesn’t cover the gender parity in podium plushies. I believe Pola the Bee is one of the few brave female-designated plushes in cycling. As far as I know, Tour de Pologne was too cheap before 2011 to commission a week’s worth of Pola plushies, rather, investing in one Pola suit to be worn by the Polish equivalent of a Disneyland actor. This year, the Pola plushie debuted on podium to the resounding indifference of TdP stage winners. She had me at “Cześc”, though. I wanted to rip her out of sullen Peter Sagan’s hand and take a nap with her. A cycling season’s worth of early wake-ups have caught up with me and I’ve become quite the nappy headed ho. I just think that sleeping with Pola, the queen bee of Tour de Pologne, I can only have happy dreams of bike races filled with inflatables and plushies--just like the dumbed down American ending to Brazil.
5. Skoda Yeti, Tour de France. Yetis are great kissers, did you know? Or so I assume because every fucking maillot blanc winner kisses the Yeti plush during podium. Is it the unbridled joy of one’s first Tour de France prize? Or the sub-quarter century male libido coming undone after being surrounded by dudes all season? (If the latter is true, I don’t want to know what happens with the young rider and Yeti behind closed doors.) The mythical Yeti is the closest Andy Schleck has come to having his unicorn, and you betcha Andy’s smooched him. I’m willing to become a guinea pig to determine what exactly makes these Yetis so kissable. Is it the extra soft polyester fur? Virginal white? Does he smell like mint chip ice cream? Wait, does it technically make me a cougar if I want to sleep with the maillot blanc plushie?
4. Blick Ladybug, Tour de Suisse. Whoever is picking the plushes for Tour de Suisse feels me. Both podium prizes for TdS make me wish I could climb like a Schleck and time trial like a Cancellara so I can nab a stage win and the race lead. Alas, I can’t even gruppetto like a Cancellara and bleed time like a Schleck! But maybe I can shotgun beetroot juice like a Leipheimer? The Blick Ladybug looks like Pola the Bee, but I’m pretty sure it is a “he” and that he is drunk from the look in his eyes. It would make a great Crying Game-esque story if I slept with the Blick Ladybug, y’know? In my upcoming tell-all about being a podium plush groupie, the Blick chapter will be called “Dude Look Like a Ladybug.”
3. EstaTHEo, Giro d’Italia. First of all, EstaTHEo is not an ersatz Sponge Bob so shut up about it. Second, why the fuck did a refreshing, artificially lemony, too-sugary cup of iced tea get turned into a plushie? A fuzzy, huggable object is the diametric contradiction of a cold, lemony iced tea in a dewy glass. Born of this unlikely circumstance, EstaTHEo is the international plush of mystery. Add to that the fact that he gets presented with the maglia rosa every year while the official Giro d’Italia mascot, Girbecco, was MIA on the podium this year. Did EstaTHEo pull a Nomi Malone and shove Girbecco down the stairs? It seems as though sleeping with EstaTHEo is the only way to guarantee I’ll never be on his shitlist. If EstaTHEO starts writing for NYVC, you’ll know I met with whatever gruesome fate that destroyed Girbecco.
2. Würth Bear, Tour de Suisse. I have ulterior motives for wanting to sleep with the Würth Bear. Have you seen the size of that thing? If you look at this year’s Tour de Suisse podium pics, you’ll see that the Bear is almost as big as Damiano Cunego, the Little Prince. The Würth Bear would make, like, a perfect body pillow. I’ve always wanted a body pillow but it’s so embarrassing to shop for one because marketing materials inevitably picture it with a lonely lady clinging to it. (This and the “husband”--what does the pillow industry have against women?!) Having someone take the lead in a prestigious stage race, then gifting me the body pillow prize would be so much more dignified. I’d throw my desperate single lady limbs around the Würth Bear and sleep like a Little Prince, knowing my lumbar issues would be somewhat mitigated. Thank you, cycling!
1. Kuurne Donkey, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. As a cobbled classics fan, I’m disappointed none of the major races have podium plushes. Who doesn’t need a fuzzy friend to cuddle after a long, frigid day in the saddle? While KBK is one of the earliest Euro races of the season, the Kuurne Donkey is soooo fuckin’ over cycling already. Unlike the affected hipsterism of Eeyore (I mean, that ironic ribbon? Come on!), the Kuurne Donkey’s eye-rolling is for reals. He doesn’t give a shit if you won a race that only 26 out of 198 finished. He just wants to be anywhere but in Kuurne on the last Sunday of February. Chicks dig assholes, so Kuurne Donkey’s pathological indifference is very attractive to me. When my alarm goes off at 4am for live streaming of a must-see Euro bike race, I want the Kuurne Donkey next to me dripping with contempt. Because, my goodness, if you’ve seen the dark circles under my eyes after all the brutal wake-up times I’ve endured for cycling, you’d know I need that jackass to tell me I shouldn’t give a shit and go back to sleep.
Bonus: Giant Salami, Tour of Austria. Because I’m sure more than a few girls and guys took to bed that bonerific image of Andre Greipel with a giant salami strategically applied to his crotch.
You know that old box of bike parts you've put in your closet?
Recorded inside the press room at Grenoble Velodrome, we bring you Episode #8 of the Insider from the 2011 Tour de France, our final podcast.
Recorded 1,850 metres above sea level atop the famed Alpe d'Huez, we bring you Episode #7 of the Insider podcast from the 2011 Tour de France.