It’s not just big name riders such as Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck who are missing from this year’s 99th edition of the Tour de France – absent from the roadside as each stage heads into its closing kilometres is a man who has been a contant presence at the Tour and other big races over the past two decades, Didi Senft, otherwise known as the Devil.
Jumping up and down, pitchfork in hand, as he urges the riders on and dressed in a red and black lycra outfit that you probably don’t want to get too close too at the end of three weeks, Didi is very much part of the fabric of the Tour nowadays; a painted trident on the road shortly ahead of the position he has chosen alerts riders and fans alike of where he is going to be.
The 60-year-old is missing this year due to having to undergo surgery recently to on a brain lesion, with surgeons having to remove blood clots, reports L’Equipe, but he is now happily out of danger and recuperating at home in Storkow near Berlin. Evidently, jumping up and down along roads the length and breadth of France isn’t part of his recovery programme, however.
The nickname, the Devil? Did originally adopted that in tribute to his favourite rider, the Italian Claudio Chiappucci, nicknamed ‘El Diablo’ by Spanish fans, a soubriquet that stuck with him for the rest of his career.
If you’re missing your fix of Didi, who runs a cycling museum in his home town and also has a website showcasing some of the weird and wonderful bicycles he has created, you can find him performing his acrobatics on the Wiggle ad currently running here on road.cc.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.