Blazin' Saddles

Aussies are McLovin’ Madrazo

Blazin' Saddles

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Don't be surprised if you hear the relatively unknown name of Angel Madrazo being chanted by Australian cycling fanatics throughout next week's Tour Down Under.

You see, the bespectacled Madrazo has taken over Frenchman Arthur Vichot as the race's unofficial fans' favourite thanks to a tradition, now in its second year, set up by the Port Adelaide Cycling Club.

Last year, in a bid to spice up the largely pancake-flat week-long stage race usually dominated by Andre Greipel, the PACC decided to pick an unknown, non-English speaking domestique and treat him like a superstar.

"Someone who no one has heard of before, will probably not get a Tour de France spot, and is making minimum wage fetching bottles for his team leader," read the instructions.

The aim was to "cheer him like crazy" throughout the race, turning up at his hotel room, painting his name on the roads and distributing home-made T-shirts of their newly-found idol.

To what purpose? "Obscure pro wonders where the heck this mysterious fan base has come from, and is confused but delighted."

The PACC chose then-21-year-old Francaise des Jeux rookie Vichot, and delighted he was. "It is fun that this story occurs to me," the bemused Frenchman told reporters during the race. "There are more 'go Vichot' than 'go Lance', it's amazing."

But FDJ's failure to obtain Pro Tour status this season means the PACC will be deprived of their mascot during the six-day race.

And that is where the unheralded Madrazo comes into the equation.

Faced with the prospect of having no obscure object of affection to inject a bit of fizz into proceedings, the treasurer of the PACC decided to switch allegiances from Vichot to the man nicknamed 'The Sparrow of Cazona'.

Now, don't feel ignorant for not knowing who this Angel Madrazo chap is. He's not the most illustrious of riders; heck, he doesn't even look like a pro racer. As 'Timmy' from the PACC committee remarked on the club's online forum: "This dude looks hilariously awkward."

In fact, when faced with a photo of the slightly wonky-eyed 22-year-old Spaniard, film buffs may even think they recognise Mr Madrazo, for the Movistar rider is a dead-ringer for bona fide movie star McLovin from the US comedy Superbad (you know, the hilariously awkward-looking Christopher Mintz-Plasse fake ID character).

If you don't believe Blazin' Saddles then go look at Madrazo's official website (which is fast approaching 33,000 visits). Once you have clicked though from a title page which shows Madrazo's alter ego, the said Cazonan sparrow (complete with cap and spectacles), you'll see cycling's young answer to Jimmy Hill staring out, arm in arm with a deliciously incongruous bulldog.

Click on the photos tag and scroll down to see a selection of images of Madrazo in his previous Caisse d'Epagne colours. Scroll further down and you'll see a right goon in a Saunier Duval shirt smiling at the camera and making the devil's horns with both hands. It's McLovin Madrazo.

As Saddles speaks, hundreds of Australian cycling fans are brushing up on their Spanish in a bid to learn a few chants to urge on their idol. New T-shirts are being made; a Facebook fan group has been set up; there's talk of an official chant, to the tune of Robbie Williams's Angels: "I'm McLovin Angel instead."

There's no denying it: Madrazo is going internet viral crazy.

Despite his funny appearance and demeanour, the all-rounder is said to be a Supergood prospect. A frequent winner as a junior, last year he almost pulled off a breakaway win in the Giro de Lombardia, getting reeled in just one kilometre from the finish. As one Spanish cycling journalist so kindly says: "Madrazo is a future world-class rider and not just a geek."

But it could all be over before Dawn French sings after it emerged this week that Madrazo has been taken ill. It seems that the Sparrow picked up (bird?) flu when stopping over in Kuala Lumpur on his way to Australia.

"The vomits and the fever me have left exhausted. I am strengthless, although I hope to be able to recover to me as rapidly as possible and to be again in the bicycle to dispute these great appointments in Australia," Madrazo said, via his spokesman Mr Babelfish.

A nation is on tenterhooks. After being so comprehensively humbled by England in the recent Ashes cricket series - (apologies to BS's American readers: cricket is to baseball what fillet steak is to McDonalds) - the last thing Australian sports fans need is yet more disappointment.

Follow Blazin' Saddles throughout the week on

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