Blazin' Saddles

Go, Johnny Go!

Blazin' Saddles

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What better way to celebrate your 28th birthday than go on a totally futile break and entertain the world with your ungainly pedalling style?

Blazin' Saddles salutes Vacansoleil's Johnny Hoogerland for jazzing up an otherwise pretty dire stage seven of the Giro - and above all, for not taking himself, or anyone else for that matter, seriously.

Not only did Hoogerland go hell-for-leather to chase down a quintet which was going to become Lampre and Liquigas fodder anyway; he also had the audacity to attack said group as soon as he caught them - even if it was readily apparent that he was on edge of a bonk sandwich.

Once he had regained a bit of strength, Hoogerland, his shirt unzipped and his face grimacing, launched the first attack on the final climb of the day - despite the peloton being but 30 seconds behind. Talk about kamikaze. It's no surprise Johnny finished the stage 3:39 back in 73rd position.

Still, it was nice to see a rider from Vacansoleil finally doing something in this race. As soon as Saddles spotted the lone attacker's unorthodox style, he was convinced he was gazing at birthday boy Hoogerland.

How did Saddles know it was Hoogerland's birthday? Social networking, baby. The two, you see, are friends on Facebook ever since the "Bull of Beveland" made such an impact in his debut Vuelta in 2009, when he finished 13th after attacking pretty much every single day.

Hoogerland got a reputation as a bit of a bad boy early on in his career when he was sacked by Rabobank for testing positive for testosterone as an 18 year old.

Subsequent tests showed that he had naturally high levels of testosterone in his body, but despite the UCI reprieve, the youngster still picked up the unfortunate nickname of Johnny Testosteroney.

If you visit the Dutchman's Facebook page you'll see that there's nothing untoward about his testosterone levels now - he just has a clear penchant for blond Dutch chics.

He is also immensely popular by anyone's standings, with a friend count currently at 1,999 and more than 200 messages coming in to wish him a happy birthday.

Some messages were short, succinct, and to the point: "Happy birthday, great effort today, love attacking cycling"; some were positively Euro: "Fantastich today Johnny - happy birthday"; others were just plain baffling: "Happy b-day.. Dat moment wanneer je op en over de groep ging, za-lig!".

In fact, judging by his Facebook profile, Johnny Hoogerland is clearly a guy who likes to have fun - preferably with his shirt off. Or alongside dolphins. Or at the expense of overweight tourists at Benidorm airport...

But having fun is how Hoogerland seems to roll when in the saddle too. Today's solo break had no chance and he knew it. But he also knew it was his birthday - and can he be forgiven for wanting to celebrate in his own inimitable style?

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