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Nic Ladds 4th Jul 2009 - 23:18

The Devil is a German, FACT!

Now as common a sight as Lance Armstrong in a Yellow Jersey, the Tour de France has become home to ‘The Devil'. German born Dieter ‘Didi' Senft that is...

Since 1993, the lovable ‘El Diablo' has been sighted throughout the various stages of 'Le Tour' branding his devil's costume and hugely oversized self built bicycle, and he's now easily recognisable as a staple of the annual French cycling event.

The Tour de France Devil, real name Dieter "Didi" Senft doesn't just turn up to get on television though - he is a massive fan of cycling and created his Devil nickname from the German television commentator Herbert Watterot, who would name the final kilometer of each stage "the Devil's lap"

"They always called the final kilometer of a criterium (stage) the red devil's lap. I never saw a red devil, so I became one."

And so it began.

Donning his red devil's costume, black cape and trifork, Dieter has made an appearance at each stage of the last 16 Tour de France events, usually accompanied by one of his home made bicycles which he carries in a trailer attached to his car.

The same car he sleeps in at night throughout the month long event to keep his touring costs down.

We'll usually see Didi waving a flag at the ‘20km to the finish' mark where the French police generally stop the eccentric German from getting too close to the crowds at the stage finale, but El Diablo shows the riders respect and knows where to draw the line:

"When the riders are passing by, I never afflict them. It's a question of respect for them. I chase them for the media, only from behind and never too close. Of course, there are riders who change the side of the road when seeing me. I don't know why they do so, but I take it as a sign not to chase them."

It's likely the riders would be wary of any devil, especially after an imitating "Yellow Devil" tried to become famous by getting in the way of seven time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, only to then be literally shoved from the pack's path by the cancer beating supremo.

The riders at the 2009 event have a tour of 21 stages consisting of 10 flat stages & 7 mountain stages. One medium mountain stage, two individual time-trials and one team time-trial - with only two days of rest over the event.

Not only an enthusiast, Dieter Senft is a builder of rather more eccentric cycles than the likes of Tour de France favourites Carlos Sastre and Alberto Contador would be used to.

Amongst the 100+ bikes in Didi's garage are a special few.View image detail

In fact he currently holds the record for the world's largest and longest ride-able bicycle - an outstanding 7.8m (25'7") long and 3.7m (12'2") high.

The German has also built a recumbent double-decker tandem and a giant rickshaw 12.4m (42') long, on which the passenger sits at a vertigo inducing height of 6.65m (21'10") above the ground.

The Devil currently has had up to ten entries in ‘The Guinness Book of Records' for his bike building abilities.

Now loved by most but not always on the correct side of the law, the 2006 Tour of Switzerland event saw Devil Senft paint his trademark trifork on a stretch of road outside his house, only to be told to remove it by the Swiss police and face either a fine or prison.

When all is said and done, I think it's just a little harmless fun but am I in the minority?

Should the riders be left to concentrate on their job and the crowds left to purely enjoy the racing and not have to put up with the apparent "smelly" German? (That's not a slur, he's supposed to have a serious B.O. problem)

I say good on you Dieter - keep it up, and if you're planning on having a punt on the Prologues, then make sure its with William Hill who cover the whole tour with an array of Tour de France betting markets.

Enjoy the 2009 Tour de France.

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