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Cycling's Most Emasculating Tradition: The Toy Lion Trophy

You’ll never see Peyton Manning triumphantly holding up a Mickey Mouse doll after winning the Super Bowl. Or Lebron James cuddling a teddy bear after winning the NBA Finals. No. Those dudes hold up trophies. Big-ass, sterling silver trophies.

So what’s the deal with giving cutesy stuffed lions to Tour de France stage winners? What do the cyclists do with them? Cut the heads off and mount them like hunting trophies? Stick them in a glass case so they won’t get mixed up with their kids’ Beanie Boos? Snuggle with them for good luck?

What gives, cycling? What’s the deal with the weirdly infantile tradition that will surely play out again at this year’s Tour? 

Turns out plenty of cycling forum users have their own theories. Perhaps ergogenic drugs are delivered inside the lion, right under the WADA officials’ noses. Or, as Nigel-YZ1 wrote on, cyclists get the toy “to hold in front of themselves to avoid the more revealing pics of them in lycra making a scandal in the tabloids."  

Plausible theories, cycling enthusiasts. But the lion was actually the mascot of longtime Tour de France title sponsor Crédit Lyonnais. According to French sports magazine L’Équipe, the bank has been handing out the fluffy lions at the Tour since 1987. Forty-five of the little guys attend the Tour each year, with one distributed to each day’s winner and the rest closely guarded to avoid loss or (zut alors!) theft.

A few years ago, L’Équipe writes, marketing execs at the bank decided the lions were outdated and thought about replacing them with a more traditional big-ass trophy—particularly becuase the lion is no longer the bank’s mascot. (“It was a bit aggressive,” Crédit Lyonnais PR man Arnaud Loubier told PEZ Cycling News.) But common sense prevailed (“le bon sens a prévalu”) and the officials stuck with the stuffed prizes.

Crédit Lyonnais sponsorship exec Sophie Moressee-Pichot says you shouldn’t see cyclists at any other race holding up the stuffed lion, even though the bank sponsors several other events that Le Tour’s production company—the ASO—puts on, including Paris-Nice, Criterium International, Paris-Roubaix, Tour de Picardie, Tour de Languedoc-Roussillon, Tour de L’Avenir, and Tour of Burkina Faso. The bank only uses the lion at the Tour de France.

With Crédit Lyonnais signed on through 2018 as a TdF sponsor, expect to see more champion cyclists holding up stuffed lions for years to come.   

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What Tailgating Gear Do I Need for the Fourth of July?

After adopting the Declaration of Independence that fateful July day, our Founding Fathers opened their saddle bags and started kicking back ice-cold pints of ale. While Ben Franklin shredded summer tunes on his glass armonica, Thomas Jefferson challenged Alexander Hamilton to a game of corn hole.

Hey, it could have happened, right?

And even if it didn’t, there’s no reason you shouldn’t tailgate, car camp, or throw a backyard barbecue this Fourth of July. Here are seven pieces of made-in-America gear guaranteed to help get you in the summer spirit.

Iron and Resin INR July 4 Kool Kan

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Ventura, California-based Iron and Resin made these sturdy vinyl-coated foam coozies in a glossy red, white, and blue specifically for the Fourth. An interior plastic liner snugly holds a 12-ounce can. Plus, the Kool Kan floats, a major bonus if you plan to celebrate Independence Day near a large body of water.

Yeti Tundra 50

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Not only are Yeti cooler’s damn near indestructible, they also keep food cold for days thanks to a double-walled, rotomolded exterior and about twice as much insulation as most of their competitors. For tailgating, I suggest the Tundra 50, which can accommodate 32 beers.

Yeti manufactures coolers in Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, and the Philippines. Want one of the coolers made in the U.S.? The company has a number you can call (512-394-9384) to make it happen. 

Chubbies 'Mericas Shorts

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The 'Mericas are manufactured in San Francisco and are cut from such soft pre-washed cotton that they’re comfortable enough to wear all day—without underwear.

That said, at only five-inches-long, I’d suggest going commando only with extreme caution. On top of the amazing flag styling, I also loved the elastic waistband with belt loops.

Liberty Bottle Works W.O.W Flag Bottle

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The key to safely drinking a lot of beer this Fourth? Drink a lot of water, too. Yakima, Washington-based Liberty Bottle Works produces made-in-America metal water bottles, made from 100 percent recycled materials.

Grooves in the cap coupled with knobs on top of the bottle make an easy-to-use lid that won’t leak. This aluminum stars-and-stripes water bottle was light enough to use in a hiking kit, but study enough to handle getting dropped on the ground.

Upslope Brewing Beer

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Yes, Budweiser has American Flag specialty cans, but who wants to drink the beer inside of them?

Boulder, Colorado-based Upslope Brewing rounded out its patriotic can colors—the red-canned Pale Ale is crisp and flavorful, while the blue-canned IPA is tongue-meltingly hoppy—with a 7.5 percent ABV limited release Belgian-style pale in a white can.

Therm-a-rest Trail Trekker Chair Kit

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Yes, most tailgating chairs come from Walmart. But I challenge you to think outside of the truck bed, and consider the Therm-a-Rest Trekker Chair Kit made in Seattle, Washington.

Although you might sit lower than other members of your party, no one else will have a chair that weighs just about two pounds, can turn into a bed, and can be used on a hiking trip.

Leatherman Juice CS4

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The Juice CS4 has 15 tools to help fix any tailgating emergency, including: opening a beer; cutting a lime; or fixing your stereo.

At 5.6 ounces, it's heavy to take into the backcountry, but it's easy to slip into a shorts pocket for a day on the beach. We found the ridged aluminum exterior increased our grip dramatically when we used the 2.27-inch stainless steel knife, and like all Leatherman products, the multi-tool is made in Portland, Oregon. 

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Adidas miCoach Smart Ball

If you still haven't caught at least a twinge of World Cup fever, then you might as well be Ann Coulter (seriously, lady, you’re supposed to be pro America!).

Personally, it’s made us want to get back out on the pitch, even if we haven’t kicked a ball around since elementary school. To remedy our rusty skills, we’ve been been messing around with Adidas’s miCoach smart ball, which functions sort of like a friendly U11 coach.

Integrated sensors built into the size 5 regulation weight ball provide almost instant feedback about the speed, spin, trajectory, and strike point of our kicks to an accompanying smartphone app. And supplemental coach notes tell us what all that data means (though some are admittedly more helpful than others. Helpful: "To get a better power kick, the ball spin should be below 150 rpm." Less helpful, but encouraging: "It takes 10,000 hours to become proficient at a task").

Adidas also thoughtfully incorporated various challenges for once we master the basics, so we’ll be able to practice bending and knuckleballing like the pros. Our touches might be slower than they once were, but we’re going to crush the competition at next week’s co-ed rec game.


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