Wout van Aert has been a busy boy this Tour de France. He won a stage, brought back injured teammates in the race, wore the yellow jersey for four days, embarked on a one-day escape because why notaccused by his peers of “playing with our balls”.
All of this, understandably enough, made him the center of attention – and at the start of Stage 6, in the Belgian town of Binche, the scale of Wout van Aert’s stardom was made very clear when confronted with a pastier version of himself – a Wout van Aert mascot.
Looking from afar, mascots are usually there one moment, gone the next – a glimpse on the screen, a silhouette in the frame of a photo. This is not the case with the mascot Wout van Aert, who is extremely persistent. From a handful of Belgian Instagram profiles, it was possible to painstakingly reconstruct some of his movements throughout the day.
First, he hid outside the team accommodations (Congres Hotel Mons, sample Google review: “Very nice hotel, but breakfast is for the price all fur coat and no panties” 🤷♂), and found onlookers to give him a kiss on the cheek:
He did the traditional tire compression of a team bike on a roof:
He wobbled his big, gaping mouth and huge, neckless head through a revolving door (though sadly he didn’t get stuck):
He confronted the real flesh-and-blood specimen outside the team bus:
Not happy with this observation, he went to the start of the stage and strolled there too.
Then he found Wout van Aert’s wife, Sarah de Bie – loving mother, parenting podcaster – and got a hug:
As the real Wout van Aert returned from his signing, just before leaving for a one-day breakaway, he lowered his N95 for an affectionate kiss with his wife.
And, of course, the mascot was standing there too – just watching the whole thing. Mute, enormous, wobbly and armed with wrinkles:
And at the end of the stage, this threat of fabric was back, lurking on Van Aert who now had a new jersey:
Over the past few weeks, I’ve developed a professional interest in WorldTour mascots – a disparate field that ranges from hangers in the Tour de France promotional caravan to Swiss foxes spreading far and wide. I’ve learned enough to know, on a cellular level, that I don’t like mascot Wout van Aert.
I don’t like his throatless gait, his gigantic head. I don’t like his swollen limbs. I don’t like his Belgian champion’s kit that has been expired for three weeks. I don’t like that while researching the Wout van Aert mascot, I learned that this is a marketing initiative by a Belgian insurance company trying to make insurance fun, and that Wout van Aert is an ambassador for the Belgian insurance company.
I especially don’t like it, while looking for more pictures of the mascot Wout van Aert, I came across something that will haunt my dreams:
Beautiful, right? A Belgian superstar who spent the day in the hiatus, falling exhausted into the wholesome embrace of his beloved as media around the world watched. Well framed photo, nice people.
You see the dastardly duo lurking at the edge of the frame. One that looks like a superheroine called The Ivy Siren or something, and one that’s just a mean little jerk who probably rides around on a hoverboard snatching old ladies’ purses:
Creepy mascots of professional cycling, I’m on to you. Stop watching Wout van Aert making out with his wife. It’s strange.