Almost two hundred riders from 31 nations, 22 teams and two managers for each team. It’s the Tour de France, having begun once again its manic three-week-long dash through fields, up and down mountains and, of course, the grandstand finish that is the final stage in Paris.
But what has that to do with names? you may ask. Well, with so many different nationalities competing, cycling fans are bound to find a name to suit. Whether it’s Mark for top sprinter Mark Cavendish, Bradley for this year’s favorite Bradley Wiggins, Fabian for the winner of Saturday’s opening prologue, Swiss ace Fabian Cancellara, or Cadel Evans, last year’s champion, your son (or daughter, if you’re daring) can bear the name of a competitor in Le Tour 2012.
So, scanning the entry list, there’s a fair representation of multi-national versions of Alexander, Christopher, John, David, Michael and Stephen, as you might expect. There are also some more unusual monikers, such as the French male name Amaël, which brings to mind the popular Amelie and Emily for girls.
The Australians have a neat line of memorable names, with riders Baden Cook and Cadel Evans both in the lineup. Baden is also the name of an area of Germany and a city in Austria, if you want to follow the Beckhams and name your son after a location. Alternatively, you could choose the Dutch name Koen, which shares the popular –en ending with the likes of Jayden and Hayden. There is also the possibility of Ryder, the name borne by the Canadian cyclist Ryder Hesjedal. The double-entendre of a cycling fan naming their child Ryder may be a little obvious for some, but if you like the sound of the name but not the association, why not consider Tyler? The American Tyler Farrar is on the same team as Ryder Hesjedal and Scotsman David Millar.
Despite his Low Countries-sounding name, Tejay van Ganderen is actually American. His name might be an alternative rendering of the diminutive ‘TJ’, similar to the way in which Junior or Sonny is sometimes used.
But what if your new baby is a girl? Since Le Tour is an all-male affair, unless you happen to like unisex names, you’re stuck. You could always use the feminine version of a name: Michelle, Stephanie, Davina – or even Amaëlle. Perhaps the names of the teams themselves could provide inspiration: Astana is not only the name of the cycling team, but also the capital of Kazakhstan. It means ‘capital’, but has its origins in old Persian, where the word is used to indicate a shrine where people stop to pay respects, and would be perfect for a beautiful baby girl.
The team managers’ names are a minefield for the unwary. Davide is not the feminine of David, but a male name in Italy. Stephane is more akin to Stephen than Stephanie whilst both Lylian and Julien are predominantly male names, at least in France. Unfortunately, Lylian is the title of a computer game set in a mental hospital, whilst Julienne is more often seen to describe a form of culinary preparation.
Yvon (Ivan) is used in the feminine form Yvonne in the US and UK, whilst the Belgian name Hilaire translates to Hilary in English, a unisex name spelled with either one of two ‘l’s. In the US it is now seen as a strictly feminine name, but in Britain, the politician Hilary Benn is as famous for his name as he is for his politics.
Lionel—as in competitor Lionel Daudet– is generally seen as a male name, but the author Lionel Shriver changed her name to that as a teenager because she felt that a traditionally male name suited her better. Giving your daughter this name but pronouncing it ‘lio-NELLE’ rather than ‘lion-al’ could be a possibility, and would echo the French way of using Laurence as the feminine of Laurent or Lawrence.
Finally, there is the traditional location of the final stage: Paris. A unisex name and both current and timeless by turns (Paris of Troy or Paris Hilton), it would honor the greatest cycle race on the planet without it being too obvious. Elyse (or Elise) would do the same after the Champs Elysees, where the race climax and presentations happen.
However you choose to roll with it, the Tour de France offers interesting possibilities in both traditional and modern name choices for cycling fans.
Paula Thomas is a British University administrator with a growing presence as a writer, editor and proofreader. She blogs at Wordchazer’s Words as well as writing for Suite101.com, where she has over one hundred articles. She also contributes to RetroGT blog, covering retro technology events. Apart from names, words and old computers, other fixations include databases, polar bears, cats, watching motorsport and cycling.