FDJ-Bigmat rider Fedrigo of France celebrates on the podium after winning the 15th stage of the Tour de France
What do Ben Stiller, George W Bush, Otzi the Austrian Ice Man (Europe's oldest natural human mummy) and FDJ puncheur Pierrick Fedrigo all have in common? (Clue: it has nothing to do with the size of any adenoids appendage). That's right: they have all been struck down by Lyme disease at some point.
What is Lyme disease, Saddles hears you think. Well, it's a bacterial infection with potentially severe symptoms that include joint and nerve pain, headaches, cognitive problems (not so much of an issue with the former US President), and fatigue (no longer an issue with Otzi).
In the case of Fedrigo, who was not diagnosed with the disease until July last year despite picking it up in the spring (from a tick while out hunting), the symptoms are acutely debilitating. The Frenchman's 2011 season was pretty much wiped out — so it was nice to see that man they call "The Nose of Marmande" back to winning ways in Pau on Monday.
Rather symbolically, Fedrigo returned to the site of his last major victory two years ago to notch his fourth career victory in the Grande Boucle. As soon as it became apparent that Fedrigo's six-man break was going to hold on till the finish, Saddles went straight to the nearest bookmaker and put £20 on the nose on the FDJ-BigMat man to prevail.
Seeing the 33-year-old Frenchman's arms aloft as he came home to take the win sparked a visual equivalent of Proust's famous Madeleine cakes as memories of yesteryear came scurrying back. So, dear readers, let's take a trip down memory lane and revisit some previous blogs about Fedrigo and his astonishing hooter.
13th July 2009: The Nose of Marmande
"The tour organisers might have muzzled the overall contenders with the farcical stage nine but at least one rider smelt glory. Blazin' Saddles throws a bit snout out to Frenchman Pierrick Fedrigo — he of the prodigious proboscis — who won the watered-down Pyrenean stage by a nose after beaking — sorry, beating — Franco Pellizotti inTarbes.
"Fedrigo, nicknamed Le Nez de Marmande after his colossal schnoz, used his superior sprinting skills to good effect to snare his second career Tour stage win in the finish town closest to his family home in the nearby Lot-et-Garonne region. He sure has a nose for victory..."
8th July 2010: The Nose of Marmande Part II
"It was a case of déjà vu for the Tour on Tuesday as Pierrick Fedrigo smelled victory in the Pyrenees yet again after edging out compatriot Sandy Casar by a nose and a half in Pau.
"Last year in Tarbes, Blazin' Saddles threw a big snout out to the Frenchman, nicknamed Le Nez de Marmande due to his quite simply stupendous schnoz, after he crossed the Col d'Aspin and the Col de Tourmalet on his way to a famous second victory on the Tour.
"Well, 12 months on and Fedrigo repeated this feat, crossing the same two legendary beaks - sorry, peaks - as well as the Col d'Aubisque and the Col de Peyresourde before sprinting to an equally memorable win.
"The 31-year-old from the nearby Lot-et-Garonne region hid behind his prodigious proboscis at the back of the group in the final straight before using his aerodynamic bill to sniff out an opportunity near to the barriers and snoot home with all the conviction of a man who clearly has a nose for these kinds of exploits."
15th July 2012: The Nose of Marmande Part III
These nasal blasts from the past tell you two essential things: first, it shows just how little Saddles' humour and style has developed over the past few years; but more important, it underlines the consistency of a rider once described by his friend and former team-mate Thomas Voeckler as "one of the biggest talents in the peloton — he just hasn't realised it yet".
Can you forgive your faithful scribe for delving into his online cuttings for those muzzle memories? Just as Fedrigo is a rider who keeps delivering, his nose is a gift that keeps on giving.
In many respects, Fedrigo reminds Saddles of another French rider, David Moncoutie — just a more sociable version. In fact, if you go on Fedrigo's comical personal website — which looks as if it was designed by his own mother using one of those Mr Website kits back in the late 90s — you'll see just how popular he is. Where Moncoutie is a recluse, Fedrigo is a "grand homme en Garonne", so to speak.
Although the website has only had 61,742 visitors since 1st May 2004 (presumably when it was created) and the members of Fedrigo's own fan club number a paltry 425 (up from 366 in 2010), the rider is clearly a popular man in his native Tarbes.
Forget that his father is president of the Club des Supporters or that myriad other family members make up the board — Fedrigo is pictured a numerous local events surrounded by well-wishers, plus his own personal sponsors range from a Marmande marmalade maker to a local removals man called Monsieur Tillot..
There's something rural, dated, communal and down-to-earth about Fedrigo that Saddles really appreciates. Even his studded earrings betray an endearingly misguided attempt to be hip (either that, or a valiant effort to divert attention from the sundial on the centre of his face).
While his customs and moeurs seem to be those set firmly in the earth and a France of yesteryear, Fedrigo has managed to adapt as a rider and live with the times — as perfectly encapsulated by his recovery from a career-threatening disease that was capped off on Monday with his splendid win.
So, for his enduring ability on the bike as well as his Proustian proboscis, Saddles salutes the Nez de Marmande — and promises that he'll come up with something a bit more original for Part IV next time the Tour drops in to Pau.
- Sports & Recreation