FAENZA, Italy (VN) — Victor Campenaerts’s first date has already cost him 100 Swiss francs, and he hasn’t even kissed the girl.
The Belgian national time trial champion made headlines Tuesday when he wrote a message across his chest asking for a date. The UCI slapped him with a fine for “damaging the image of cycling.”
Campenaerts doesn’t care. His plan worked like a charm.
“It worked out well,” Campenaerts said with a laugh. “I have my date.”
Campenaerts’s romantic gesture, and the subsequent by-the-book fine from the race jury went viral. His original message — Carlien daten? (which roughly translates to: will you go out with me?) — was picked up by Belgian media. The ensuing fine Wednesday quickly made the rounds on social media as well.
“It got a little bigger than I expected,” he said from the team hotel. “I only heard about [the fine] one hour ago. I am not going to make a big deal out of it — I accept the fine, and I am ready to get back to my job of helping Stevie.”
Of course, “Stevie” is Steven Kruijswijk, the Dutch captain at LottoNL-Jumbo. Campenaerts is racing this Giro to help Kruijswijk follow up on his breakout 2016 Giro. In fact, it was Campenaerts’s commitment to Kruijswijk that triggered the idea.
“The reason I did it was because we decided that I should sacrifice my chances in the time trial, so I could pull for Stevie in the hard stages in the mountains,” he said. “We need every rider, and that’s why I gave up my chances in the time trial, so I could be a workhorse in the mountains.”
Campenaerts was doing just that Wednesday, pulling at the front in the climb-heavy stage across Italy’s spine. “If I had gone deeper in the time trial, I wouldn’t have been so fresh today.”
Generally, governing bodies don’t like athletes using live TV broadcasts as a platform for unscripted messages. European soccer recently started to issue a yellow card to players who take off their uniforms to celebrate goals or to show a message on an undershirt.
Cyclists also got into that game, most famously Cadel Evans, who wore a “Free Tibet” T-shirt ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics Games.
So what about that date? The woman in question is a Belgian who, according to Campenaerts, “isn’t that much into cycling.”
“I am still thinking about that … it will have to be something original after all this!” he said. “Maybe if Stevie makes the podium, I can bring her to Milan to celebrate.”