In a week when UCI president Pat McQuaid has insisted the governing body has nothing to hide in relation to the Lance Armstrong scandal, organisers of next year’s road world championships in Tuscany have unveiled the event’s mascot – Pinocchio, the toy made of wood who dreams of becoming a boy and whose nose grows each time he tells a lie.
With some believing that life president Hein Verbruggen, under heavy criticism as a result of the Armstrong affair, is still pulling the strings at the UCI, the choice of a puppet as the symbol of the event is a doubly unfortunate one, although organisers insist that it is other qualities of the fictional character that they are looking to highlight.
“Ours is a Pinocchio connected to his origins, happy, athletic and attentive,” says the description on the Toscana 2013 website. The character, best known outside Italy as a result of the 1940 Disney film, was created by the Florentine writer Carlo Collodi, who published his book The Adventures of Pinocchio in 1883.
“He is looking at the horizon, expressing an optimistic attitude versus the future. The expression of his face is smiling, happy, positive” – perhaps not the best choice of word in the current environment – “and at the same time astonished.”
Astonished at the scale of the doping revelations that have hit the sport over the past couple of weeks? Not at all, although looking at the length of his schnozz, you might be entitled to wonder what he’s hiding in his own past.
Nope, he’s “astonished by the beauty of what he sees in front of himself (because there is land and places that keep astonishing),” says the organising committee.
“This type of expression shall also be an invitation to the public to come discovering the beauty of this land. The upright standing Pinocchio with his right hand to his flank represents his happiness and pride.
“Our Pinocchio is happy that his land, Tuscany, has been chosen to host the World Championships of Cycling. The outline is athletic and slim,” they add, “just like a real driver” – that should be “rider,” a little lost in translation there, unless there’s a big change in UCI equipment regs we haven’t been told about yet.
Pinocchio, it turns out, also appears to be pro-helmet compulsion, although with a noggin made of wood you wouldn’t have thought he’d need one.
“This Pinocchio is also one who reminds us of the social message: Under his left arm he holds a helmet to “communicate”, to children and also to adults, that safety is necessary (at competitions and also if you drive [ride] just for fun).”
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.