Skip the driving

You may have thought that Il Diablo, a.k.a. Didi Senft, is the craziest guy that follows the major European bike races. But that’s only because you see him waving his pitchfork on TV and you haven’t seen some of the unique race groupies who don’t get on TV. My current choice for most way-out is Skippy, an Australian who rides every single stage on his bike ahead of the peloton. He starts on the course a couple of hours before the race starts and finishes each stage just before the peloton. The publicity caravan that precedes the racers has around a hundred cars in it, each with a giant

This cycling junkie from Oz rides before others race

By Lennard Zinn

From the Giro, Skippy will ride each stage of the Tours of Austria, Switzerland, and France.

From the Giro, Skippy will ride each stage of the Tours of Austria, Switzerland, and France.

Photo: Lennard Zinn

You may have thought that Il Diablo, a.k.a. Didi Senft, is the craziest guy that follows the major European bike races. But that’s only because you see him waving his pitchfork on TV and you haven’t seen some of the unique race groupies who don’t get on TV. My current choice for most way-out is Skippy, an Australian who rides every single stage on his bike ahead of the peloton. He starts on the course a couple of hours before the race starts and finishes each stage just before the peloton.

The publicity caravan that precedes the racers has around a hundred cars in it, each with a giant plastic object on the roof to promote some product another — it could be a watch, a giant shoe or chocolate bar, a bowl of pasta or a bunch of broccoli. Every day, all of these cars pass Skippy near the end of the stage, and people reach out of many of them to hand Skippy food or drink.

Skippy looks to be around 60, although his age is as much a mystery as his full name or his source of motivation. Though he has no disability himself nor does he carry or wear a sign on the subject, he says he rides these events to publicize disabled sports and the Paralympics.

He is riding the entire Giro, and he will immediately afterward ride the entirety of the Tour of Austria, the Tour of Switzerland and the Tour de France. He has been riding the courses ahead of all of these races and others for a few years. “I don’t ride the Vuelta España anymore because it has too many long car transfers. It is too far for me to ride those transfers on my bike,” the tanned and wizened rider in the faded Paris-Nice jersey says. His one-year-old saddle is so worn that it looks 20 years old. His seatpost and stem are frozen into the frame and fork, so no adjustments or replacements are possible anymore.

Skippy stays each night in hostels or anywhere he can find and carries only a few items with him. His source of funding is unclear, although he says he teaches skiing in Austria in the wintertime.

Skippy is one of a kind. He silently goes about his work, and very few people other than those in the caravan and the fans lining the roads ever see him, since he does not get on TV. The more visible Il Diablo, on the other hand, even has a sponsor. (He and Hans “No Way” Rey have the only cycling-related sponsorships form LUK, an automotive manual transmission manufacturer.) Like Il Diablo, Skippy is there day after day, rain or shine. He never seems to get too sick or (too sick and tired of doing this) to ride. He gets by on a few equipment handouts here and there, but some tire company should put him to work as a wear-tester (he would probably be cheaper than a lab tire-test machine)! If you want to reach Skippy, send him at note at: skippy@activeuro.com.