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Meet the riders (III)

Zinedine Zidane might win the football competition for most eye-catching nomenclature, but he would struggle to compete in the field of ‘la grande boucle‘. Cycling, and by default the Tour de France, seems to attract competitors from the most far-flung fields, and as a result provides a minefield for TV and radio commentary teams. Fortunately, Channel 4’s Phil Ligget’s pronunciation abilities leaves Trevor Brooking and Terry Venables way at the back of the peloton, and every year we are treated to the delights of some outlandish surnames.

Some examples for you to practice, and I suggest doing so in your own company, unless you care for covering your friends in large quantities of phlegm:

Dmitri Abdujaporov (8 syllables, one 3-consonant link, one invisible vowel, 9/10):
Now retired, but once the scourge of the sprint finish, the “Tashkent Terror” from Uzbekistan had a reputation of swinging his frame to ridiculous angles and causing utter mayhem during the manic sprints mid-stage and at the finish. Not the longest name, but quite one of the most rhythmical once you get over the initial shock of seeing it in on the page and actually spit it out.

Veroen Blijlevens (7 syllables, tongue-twisting j-l combo bonus, Polti Team, 8/10):
Another sprinter, but a little less of a headcase than Abdujaporov, this guy is a regular stage winner on the Tour and will feel confident of a repeat of this form, particularly with Cipollini having withdrawn this year. The Dutch football team never contained anyone with names like this, what’s wrong with a nice simple name like Boudewijn Zenden?

Ekimov Vjatceslav (7 syllables, most original double-consonant link, USPS Team, 7/10):
Don’t know much about this guy, but with 3 Vs in your name, you’ve got to be up there in the chasing pack really havn’t you? No doubt a loyal lieutenant to Lance, hopefully he’ll lead a breakaway at some point so those Channel 4 boys can really earn their stripes.

Anyway, enough of this low-brow entertainment, or we’ll be accused of football hooligan style chauvinism. But you can’t really argue with a nice simple English name like David Millar now can you? You could probably even enunciate it cleanly with a handful of Golden Wonders in your mouth; can’t say the same for Ekimov now can you?

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