Every fan of bicycle races recognizes this fancy red devil, who always appear at a final stage of famous bicycle tours. Known as the Red Devil of Tour de France, Didi Senft is one of the most recognizable icons of cycle sports in Europe.
Who is the Red Devil of Tour de France?
Watching the Tour de France for the first time, you may start to wonder who the hell this dressed in red tights and a horned cap mad-man can be. For seasoned fans, the Red Devil, jumping around by the roadside, is an integral part of every big bicycle race.
Didi ‘the Devil’ Senft, perhaps the best-known fan of the Tour de France, is a longtime cycling enthusiast. He’s also known as “El Diablo” in Spain and “Der Teufel” in Germany. For a first time, he appeared as a devil at the Tour de France in 1993. During multi-day stage races, he often travels ahead of the race. When the cyclists pass by, Didi, in his red tights and a black cape, chases them to appear in media.
What’s so special about Didi?
One of the most iconic images of the Tour de France is a crowd of (often dressed in fancy clothes) fans cheering and running alongside riders as they climb the mountain roads. So why this white-bearded man carrying a trident is so recognizable? It’s thanks to Didi’s story, his commitment and a unique gift to construct bizarre bicycles.
Didi usually arrives several hours before the riders, so he can install his fancy bikes and paint the road. He usually sets up a few kilometers out from the finish of a key mountain stage. To “prepare the place”, he often uses about 50 liters of white paint to draw tridents and bicycles on the road. Sometimes the local authorities are not really happy about it. In 2006, during Tour of Switzerland, Swiss police took some legal steps and Didi was forced to pay a fine and remove the painting from the road.
The Devil’s Story
Didi used to race bicycles in his youth, but because he was born in German Democratic Republic, he wasn’t able to travel to Western countries. Since then his biggest dream was to be there, by the roadside, as a spectator of the Tour de France. Everything changed in 1989 when the Berlin Wall was pulled down. Four years later Didi was able to save enough money to travel to France, and this is when the legend of the Red Devil of Tour de France was born. The devil has been at the roadside of the Tour almost every year since then.
The origin of the name
In several interviews, Didi admitted that during the Cold War era, he used to secretly watch West German television, where the final kilometer of the Tour’s stage was often called “the red devil’s lap”. Red devil’s lap starts under a red triangle-shaped cloth announcing one kilometer to go the finishing line in races (the cloth is also called a “red kite”, or “flamme rouge” in French and it looks like that). This provided the inspiration for his costume. Didi, haven’t seen any devil there, simply decided to become one.
Didi the Devil has created over 120 unusual bicycles. He’s also known for his over-sized bicycles, which he regularly takes to events. He is listed in the Guinness Book of Records for the largest rideable bicycle in the world that he’s designed (7,8 meters long and 3,7 meters high!) and the largest mobile guitar (taking the form of a bicycle). Many of his inventions can be seen in his museum in Storkow, Germany.
Retired Didi today
In his best days, Didi Senft could spend up to 100 days a year watching races and cheering the riders on. After more than twenty years, most probably due to the health issues (Didi underwent a surgery in 2012) and a lack of enough sponsoring (he used to be sponsored by LUK clutches for many years), Didi decided to hang up his trident and retire for some time. Luckily, in 2015 the Red Devil was appointed as a new brand ambassador for Rockefeller – German producer of office and printer accessories, and he’s ready to appear in the Tour de France once again.
When not traveling, 67- years old El Diablo can be found in his museum in Storkow, Germany, where you can try to ride the fancy bicycles that Didi created over the years.
Didi the Devil Museum in Storkow
At the Devil’s museum in Storkow, visitors can walk around 120 bizarre bikes created by Didi Senft. Both of the Didi’s Guinness records can be seen here, as well as dozens of bikes ranging from huge to petit. No wonder that Didi is often called a “grandmaster of bike curiosities” – just take a look!
Cutlery bike? With this bicycle saddle, I would rather not use it…
Didi the Devil Museum – Practical Information
Daily from 1 pm to 5 pm from May to October.
The Devil’s bicycle museum is located in Storkow, Lebbiner Straße 2 in the red hall at the roundabout. To get there, you need to exit the freeway at the interchange Storkow, in the direction “Storkow”. There is a big parking place just in front of the museum.
If you’re lucky, your museum guide will be El Diablo himself!
Did I mention that it’s possible to try Didi’s inventions?
I visited Didi’s museum thanks to the courtesy of the German National Tourist Board.
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