Tucked into the media silence of Easter was an item that changed Cycling as we know it. Changed it terribly, and forever.
Yep, a canine species gave birth to a new character under suspicious, bird-like circumstances. We all like celebrating new life, however suspicious, but sometimes a birth comes along that heralds the dawn of a new, bleak age. Sometimes mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. A blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned. The best lack all conviction, and the worst are full of passionate intensity.
So it was like that, when the Giro d'Italia fired Girbecco and replaced him with a stupid baby wolf.
Let's set aside Girbecco and his contributions to cycling for a moment. There is a lot wrong with this ... thing. A wolf? I guess it's a wolf. You know how I know? The name, which translates into Wolf Wolfie, told me so. Very deliberately. First off, why is it so important for me to know that this is a wolf? Simple: because it looks like My Little Doggie. I love dogs as much as the next person; anyone who is facebook friends with me already knows more about Icelandic Sheepdogs than they ever bargained for. But dogs have no role in cycling. No, wait, I can think of one exception:
Mind you, this is not the fault of a dumb dog, it's the fault of a dumb owner. Dogs are extremely sociable creatures and if they see someone coming, at 2kph or 42kph, they want to go say hi. Yes, they are also excellent learners, and when we start raising dogs in velodromes then such incidents will be on them. But for now, it's the owner's fault.
But I digress. The point is, it has to be a wolf, not a dog, but since it looks like a slicked-up version of Muttley without the snickering laugh, the Giro are at great pains to tell us it's a wolf. I'm surprised they stopped at two languages. Maybe the URL for Lupo Lobo Loup Ulv Wolfie was already taken.
Why must they use a wolf? Well, wolves live in the mountains, as does cycling in the summer months. They are also an iconic species, to some people. Mostly Etruscans and AS Roma fans (guilty). Anyway, they're edgier than dogs... except Lupo Lobo Wolfie has no edge to him. He's a soft cuddly character whose interaction with the race is destined to consist of getting run over in the finish area. Nobody will care about him except small children. Nobody. And if the Giro thinks they can sway small children to watch more cycling, I've got some bad news for them.
OK, enough about Canine Cousin Oliver up there. Let's look more closely at Girbecco, the outgoing mascot.
Girbecco was selected from an ancient line of Stambecco goats, native to the uplands of the Apennine Mountains. Between their sleek, statuesque physiques and their high-altitude daring, the stambecchi were ideal symbols of cycling virtue.
But they are also a notoriously reclusive species, so the Giro was delighted to find one individual who was uniquely qualified to become *the* symbol of the race, and all the traveling, media events, charity events and ambassadorial duties that the job required.
During the centenary Giro, Girbecco (as he was now known) became a central figure in celebrating the glory of the Giro, and of cycling around the Italian peninsula. When people discovered his tart-tongue'd ways (he's basically Gilberto Simoni in fur and horns), he became an overnight internet sensation.
And then, things got weird. Really weird.
Really, really weird.
Nothing was ever proven, and though Tourbecco was never found and Vueltabecco remains in hiding to this day, the incident eventually blew over and Girbecco was back at work in 2010.
Things were never quite the same, however. The Giro's brand kept growing elevating itself into the World's official #2 best race, and inconvenient employees like a slag-prone, possibly undead goat character only seemed to get in the way. Slowly Girbecco disappeared from the Giro scene, and the most recent photo of him suggests he's gone home at last.
Maybe it's for the best, for all parties. I guess I can understand the new RCS regime taking over and wanting to bring in their own people. But I knew Girbecco, I served with Girbecco, and you Senator Wolfie are no Girbecco.
This just in... During today's pre-Giro-opening festivities, Lupo Wolfie stunned the audience by revealing that he is not -- repeat, not -- simply a cute-faced, ineffectual wolf pup. He is in fact the most powerful image in Italian cycling history.
Yes, it's Gaius Marius Cipollini himself. Now we know why the change was made. Now it all makes sense. I only hope he watches his back during the race, particularly once they cross the Rubicon. It could get heated out there.