|What man wouldn't be happy?|
Podium girls are an essential part of any bike race worth winning. A blonde and a brunette, svelte and appetising, like a couple of Belgian beers. Cool, tall and thin-necked bottles of Belgian beer that is – a Duvel-shaped podium girl would be no good at all. Beauty is of course subjective and personally I’m a big fan of a different vision of beauty: the kind of mysterious girls who smoke and look at you questioningly, or girls who seem forever unsatisfied. But then if girls like that were up on the podium, you’d end up getting the cold shoulder off someone you’ve actually won the right to be kissed by.
There is a certain standard you want your podium girls to embody. They need to be called Angel, Candy or Chantelle, and have the kind of body that looks like it was designed by Porsche for the express purpose of being wrapped in Lycra and presented to the world. Lycra really is important too. I mean, I know Credit Lyonnais is a bank, but really, dressing Tour de France podium girls as bank clerks is pretty much unethical.
As prehistorically macho as it may be, all this really is the sugar rush that riders crave at the end of a testosterone-depleting slog through the countryside. Valley roads are beautiful, a mountain view is breathtaking, but they’re like simple carbohydrates – filling, but they leave you hankering after something sweet.
That’s what podium girls do for us riders: offer that bit of something you don’t really need, but would really, really like. Of course, the irony is that as annoyed as our partners, wives and girlfriends get by seeing beautiful women draped over us while we look very happy with ourselves, podium girls are in fact an impossible dream.
You see, when you don’t get onto the podium, as happens more often than not, you gaze longingly at the podium girls but can’t get near them. On the occasions you do get there, between being so happy to have won, trying to get your sponsor’s logo in the right place and making sure you are not exposing yourself, you don’t end up even noticing who’s standing next to you, let alone have the time or clarity of mind to start asking for phone numbers.
I also happen to have this terrible debilitating moment when I’m actually up there cheek to cheek with the podium girls, which I think stems from my feeling sorry for these two pretty things having to kiss a sweaty, stubbly and potentially malodorous lycra-clad man. The pity seems to somehow transpires into me feeling hugely vulnerable and quite useless with the opposite sex.
It’s all a bit odd because I’m pretty comfortable standing about in lycra, and it’s not like up close the girls are really that spell-bindingly good looking either - more just very well put together for the show. Maybe it’s the cool professionalism with which they take control of the situation, instructing you quietly the whole time as to where to look, stand and smile, that’s just a little too overwhelming. Knowing they just consider me a sweaty prop in their big night can be hard to take. It makes for a very bad time to consider trying it on.
These girls, like a lot of things that you start to covet during long days in the saddle and too much time spent in chain hotels, are better off in your head. You just have to be satisfied that there will always at least be photographic evidence of you receiving kisses from a couple of pretty girls, which is not an everyday occurrence, after all.
Originally published in Manzine No.2: Segunda Edición