Professional cycling races have handed out some peculiar prizes over the years – from squealing Breton piglets awarded by the Tro-Bro Léon organisers and giant gold olives at last month’s Clásica Jaén, to unholy quantities of cheese and beer at any number of regional races across France and Belgium. But the adult-themed hamper given to Trek-Segafredo’s Ellen van Dijk following stage one of the Dutch Bloeizone Fryslân race surely must go down as one of the most bizarre.
World time trial champion van Dijk won this afternoon’s opening time trial stage of the Bloeizone Fryslân, a 2.1 ranked UCI stage race formerly known as the Healthy Ageing Tour, beating Riejanne Markus by seven seconds and Marlen Reusser by 25 seconds over the 14.4-kilometre course.
When the 35-year-old took to the podium, she was presented not only with the leader’s jersey but with a giftset from the race’s title sponsor EasyToys which included, among other things, a satin blindfold, Kama Sutra playing cards, a sex toy and so-called “play socks” (I don’t want to know).
Considering that her former rival Jolien D’Hoore was given a vacuum cleaner after winning the Ronde van Drenthe in 2015, it’s perhaps no surprise that van Dijk took to Twitter to joke that “prizes in women’s cycling are improving”:
Prizes in women’s cycling are improving 😅. You can leave tips on how to use it in the comments😂 pic.twitter.com/Fh23MVG4vv
— Ellen van Dijk (@ellenvdijk) March 3, 2022
The race’s sponsor EasyToys, it turns out, is an erotic website specialising in the kind of adult-themed products handed out during today’s podium celebrations.
Announcing its sponsorship of the race earlier this week, EasyToys said that they are “not only committed to the cycling race, but also to the social movement behind it.”
The company has tried its hand at sport sponsorship during the last few years, and was at the centre of a curling controversy over the winter when broadcasters in the United States and Japan refused to show an Olympic qualifying tournament as long as EasyToys’ logo was visible.
In 2020, they were also temporarily blocked by the Dutch Football Association from appearing on the kit of Eredivisie side FC Emmen, and promptly responded by arranging for a giant X-rated inflatable to greet fans outside the club’s stadium.
While the sponsor has divided fans in other sports, cycling followers, however, saw the lighter side of the race’s somewhat unorthodox partner:
That’s is some box of delights… clearly that’s a muscle massager for those tired muscles. 🤣 pic.twitter.com/Uokk9Gaa9h
— Anna Mac (@AnnamacB) March 3, 2022
Are those UCI approved socks? 🤣
— Jo S (@sockeyejo) March 3, 2022
On the other hand, fans didn’t see the funny side of today’s catastrophically organised time trial, which was marred by cars and commuter cyclists appearing on the course.
As the TT was partly run on a cycle lane, organisers appeared unable to prevent members of the public riding their bikes during the race, while one rider had to dodge a driver who ended up on the finishing straight. Another racer was lucky to avoid a van driver as they attempted to reverse into their driveway.
— Olivier Perrier (@OlivPerrier) March 3, 2022
— Peter. ✊🏻✊🏼✊🏽✊🏾✊🏿🚴♂️ (@PBXscribes) March 3, 2022
The blindfold is obviously so you don't see all the other bikes and vehicles on the path you were expected to race on.
— JBV Hall of Fame inductee (@jverheul) March 3, 2022
The emergence of EasyToys on the women's pro racing scene is not the first time in recent years that cycling has crossed paths with the adult industry. In 2019 a cycling club made up of people involved in the adult entertainment industry was told by British Cycling that it could not be affiliated with the governing body because its name – Porn Pedallers Cycling Club – plus the activities of some of the businesses sponsoring it breached UCI rules.
The club – whose members raise money for the Terence Higgins Trust, a charity that campaigns on and provides services relating to HIV and sexual health – questioned whether the ban was justified, tweeting: “Cycling is for everyone. Except people like us.”
Oh, and who can forget Christmas 2019's essential stocking thriller, the O-Seat? Unfortunately we never did get one in for review...
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.