Far away from the ticker tape of the WorldTour, in basements, bedrooms and under bridges across Europe, there toils away a very, very small sect within cycling. Without much fanfare and with even less publicity, they craft songs dedicated to pro riders, celebrating their victories, their personalities and their nicknames.
CW takes a look at eight of the tracks and tries to examine if any of them deserve a spot on our playlists.
We doubt Spotify will be telling you at the end of 2021 that the following songs are part of your most-listened-to tracks of the year, but at least now you’ll be able to mark the future wins of the riders that inspired them more appropriately by turning the speaker on and raising the volume. Or perhaps, in some cases, turning it down.
Rider: Richard Carapaz
Song: Carapaz Eres Capaz Artist: Widinson. Listen here
The chaos of everyday life in every South American plaza mayor is played out to the background noise of a guitarist and their soulful voices, and Widinson’s homage to Richard Carapaz is the perfect soundtrack to such scenes.
Informing the Ineos Grenadiers rider – or solid warrior, as he refers to Ecuador’s favourite son – that “you are capable” and that the whole country “follows you day and night”, Widinson predicts that the likeable rider will “win one more time”.
Whether or not he adds to his Grand Tour collection, it’s a song we have on repeat simply for its blissful tones incorporating flamenco guitar and South American fluidity. Qué bonita.
CW score: 9/10
Rider: Egan Bernal
Song: Colombia está de fiesta Artist: El Burrito Listen here
With an accordion front and centre, this is the head bobbing, shoulders moving and fingers clicking sort of song that doesn’t fail to raise a smile. A short track of less than two minutes portrays Colombia’s love of cycling and its pride in Egan Bernal, it explains how his 2019 Tour de France triumph was a victory not just for the then 22-year-old, but the country’s cycling heritage and its other heroes. It’s a song that has you wishing he can return to the same sort of form.
CW score: 8/10
Rider: John Degenkolb
Song: Go Go Go! Band: All Giants ft. John Degenkolb Listen here
John Degenkolb is the peloton’s most fun rider. We profess such a statement because he was the only rider to respond with a comment on their song. And Go Go Go! is the highlight of his life. “It’s a big honour,” he says. “A professional with his own anthem has actually achieved everything there is to achieve, right?”
The song’s inspiration is a 2014 video, where on-bike cameras captured Degenkolb screaming “go go go” in a Tour of California bunch sprint, prompting pop-punkers All Giants to turn it into a song. You’re left in no doubt about their admiration as the singer croons through the bridge, “We believe in you”.
It’s got passable riffs and well-produced drums, but honestly it’s an achievement to get through two cloying minutes without skipping it. It’s the 2015 Paris-Roubaix winner’s biggest ever achievement so it gets the thumbs up from us.
CW score: 5/10
Rider: Dylan Groenewegen
Song: Dylan Groenewegen Artist: Bas Tietema Listen here
The Netherlands is the epicentre of electronic music, but the high-energy, commercial electro-pop track dedicated to Dylan Groenewegen won’t be getting played in nightclubs around the world; in fact, a minute’s play in your local Pop World would probably be considered a success beyond its merits.
The artist is cycling YouTuber Bas Tietema, who tells listeners that “finally we have a sprint gun that can beat anyone”, and when 53-time winner Groenewegen returns to competition in May following a nine-month ban, he could do worse than listen to the opening verse for his motivation that finishes with: “All he needs is that we all stand behind him.” On second thoughts, Dylan, just read the lyrics and listen to some real Dutch techno.
CW score: 1/10
Rider: Tom Dumoulin
Song: Tom Dumoulin Artist: Ton Engels Listen here
If a rider’s popularity is best measured by how many songs are dedicated to him, then Holland’s ‘Cycling Son’ is clearly Tom Dumoulin. The 2017 Giro d’Italia winner is the subject of three songs, two in Dutch and one rap in Spanish.
Our favourite is Ton Engels’ groovy acoustic-guitar driven effort that seems to have been made as the soundtrack for a farmer working away on his land near Maastricht who is in need of some inspiration to get through the repetitive nature of turning soil. The repeats of the Jumbo-Visma rider’s name, meanwhile, are the perfect accompaniment should you ever have to apply CPR. The Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive is no longer required.
CW score: 5/10
Rider: Thibaut Pinot
Song: Tibopino Artist: Jaune Mayo Listen here
This French song about “Tibopino” is as every bit as sycophantic as you’d expect. In the wake of the 2019 Tour de France, the song was written by two cousins to “exorcise the moment [of] the abandonment of Pinot.”
Its joyful, folky swing is as much about the experience of following the Tour as it is celebrating the country’s biggest hope. “Attack, attack, Tibopino, we will forget our tears and our sobs.” Unfortunately for the cousins, Pinot still hasn’t delivered, and as the third line says: “It’s been a long time since the Badger.”
CW score: 6/10
Rider: Vincenzo Nibali
Song: Il ballo dello squalo Artist: Skanzio & Pikkio ft. Cannibali Listen here
Like a clash between a nursery rhyme and an attempt at a jolly Christmas song, the tribute to Vincenzo Nibali sounds like it belongs at a child’s playdate.
Constantly referring to the Italian’s nickname of ‘The Shark’, the lyrics use the moniker as a metaphor throughout.
The standout lyric is that Nibali “eats other fish”. It’s a bit brutal, and not quite the success of Baby Shark, even if its sounds suggest that it is targeting the same audience.
Listen here (if you can stomach it)
CW score: 2/10
Rider: Nairo Quintana
Song: El Condor Artist: Hermanos Suarez Texas Listen here
Tracking Nairo Quintana’s journey from small-town boy to winner of two Grand Tours, four brothers produced a cheerful, uplifting mariachi-style song. Inspired by the Colombian’s 2014 Giro d’Italia win, the quartet’s song has almost 200,000 YouTube views: you can imagine this being sung in a Colombian bar.
CW score: 6/10
The Spanish cycling rapper
If Spanish hip-hop with curious lyrics is your style, then set aside an hour or so and listen to the backlog of one Spanish super-fan.
Cesar Cortés, the man behind the YouTube channel Bemancio, has written over 30 songs about cyclists and races since 2016. His maiden track, a three-and-a-half–minute rap about Peter Sagan, remains his most popular with almost 350,000 viewers. We particularly liked the line: “a genius is always a lunatic.”
To become the subject of a Bemancio track, a rider has to be “a bit of a comic like Sagan,” Cortés tells CW. “Today, cyclists don’t speak about social issues, love or their problems so it’s difficult, but when they do speak about these things, I put words to paper and produce a song.”
Sagan, Alejandro Valverde and Alberto Contador were the easiest riders to write about, while “the rest have been difficult. A challenge, more complicated.”
A track about Chris Froome, however, took him by surprise. “I had a vision that he was a negative person, and that the song was going to be darker, uglier, because he has less passion for the sport,” Cortés adds. “But a friend, a fanatic of Froome, helped me to write part of the song and I saw him differently.”
Primož Rogliç, though, remains hard. “For two years he has been very good, but it’s not easy to do a caricature of him. [Tadej] Pogačar is similar, but there is a video of him rapping on Twitter so he has potential. I encourage the riders to be like Sagan and Mathieu van der Poel.”
This feature originally appeared in the print edition of Cycling Weekly, on sale in newsagents and supermarkets, priced £3.25.