A dispatch from the Tro-Bro Léon pig

Cycling's strangest trophy shares some thoughts.

Iain Treloar
by Iain Treloar 06.05.2024 Photography by
Tro-Bro Léon / Tony Esnault
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You’re probably wondering how I ended up here: France’s most famous pig for the day, on the podium of a bicycle race, clutched to the chest of a young cyclist. I wish I had a compelling answer for you, but I don’t really understand it myself – the twists of fate that took me from the scratchy straw of my sty, from the teat of my mother sow, into a van and to the town of Lannilis in north-western France. So I should probably start at the beginning. 

I am a piglet. My name is Gérard. I don’t know what kind of pig I am, because as a pig I don’t really subscribe to such nuanced understanding of the self and of others, but I would describe myself as pink and piggy.

If you are to imagine a piglet – there’s a fun little thought exercise for you – you are probably picturing me or someone very like me. Pink, snout, little trotters, a fine layer of scratchy white hair, solid of physique but light on my feet. You might think I am a lesser pig among my litter but I am not the runt – that was my sister Amélie, sold as a ‘teacup pig’ to some gullible Parisians.

I am, simply, a very standard pig among pigs, and among pigs was where I was happiest: a warm nest at night, some squelchy mud to play in during the day, some goats jumping around over the fence and some arrogant donkeys looking haughtily through the gaps in the barn palings. We rose with the sun, ran around our sty all day, ate some carrot peels or swedes or whatever, just really got our snouts all up in everything. At night, frost descended on the farm and we cuddled in to the body of our mother, six little piglets all in a row preserving our warmth. Being pigs, we don’t have the vocabulary for emotion such as this, but I think you humans would call it ‘love’. 

This bucolic existence was all I knew until late April. That was when the human that ran our home got a visit from some other humans; humans that were in need of a piglet for a trophy. Our mother told us that this was something that happened every spring – when the world’s brown was turning to green – and that she’d lost a brother in such a way. “They will come and they will grab you,” she told us one night, her breath steaming out of her snout like a sleeping dragon. “When the arms come over the fence, run.”

My siblings squealed in fright at her bedtime story. Not me: I am a pig who wanted to go places, and a daring idea lodged itself in my mind like a splinter in a fingertip. “Where do they go, maman?” I asked her, wide- and wild-eyed. “Gérard,” she said sternly, noting the rebellious fire dancing in my eyes. “You belong on the farm. You are my son, not a bicyclist’s trophy.”

The next day the farmer came, his thick-fingered, calloused hands grasping across the fence. My siblings scattered. Filled with rebellious verve, I ran toward him, getting scooped up into his arms. I remember looking over his shoulder as I was carried away, seeing my mother’s snout pressed up against the bars, squealing for me. I wish I’d said goodbye, but I was a pig with places to be: there was a whole world to explore beyond the farm’s boundaries. 

I was bundled into a crate around the corner, then into the back of a battered red Renault Kangoo, and we rattled down the driveway. The farmer rolled his window down, and I caught one last whiff of the familiar smells of home; the manure, the grass, the crisp air of the countryside. Then he lit a cigarette, pushed an Edith Piaf cassette into the tape deck, and for an hour or more that was all I knew: this plaintive voice, the swirl of smoke. 

I suppose I must have fallen asleep at some point, because the next thing I remember was the back door creaking open and the crate being pulled roughly from the van. A loud, thrumming, flying machine flew overhead. There were hundreds of people walking around, some of them waving flags, some of them dressed in funny tight clothing.

I was carried to a big tent behind a stage where a lot of loud talking was happening, and listened there as my farmer spoke to a young man wearing a puffer vest that said ‘Jeunes Agriculteurs Lannilis’ on it (being pigs, we can’t read that well, but I’m pretty sure that was it). He knelt down to look into the crate at me. I pushed my snout against the hand-holes, nuzzling for a connection. He smiled gently. “Parfait,” he told my farmer. The lid to the crate lifted off, the man’s hands grabbed me, and I was carried out into the light.

From the stage, I squinted out at the hundreds of people in front of me. Some of them were red of face, laughing loudly. Others waved black and white flags. Some scowled at my presence on the podium, and I lip-read (another of our gifts) some of them saying that it was “fucking weird that there was a pig as a trophy” and that “meat is murder” and also “what the fuck, this is a living breathing creature, why the hell are they giving it to a 23-year-old cyclist and what is he even going to do with it.” Then a loud voice called a name out, and the crowd cheered.

A small boy-man in black and white wearing the words ‘Arkea’ and ‘B&B Hotels’ on his shirt walked onto the stage. He looked like I felt – a little uncertain, a little overwhelmed, trying to put on a brave face in front of all these people. I was placed in his arms and he pulled me in to his chest, one hand on my back, another around my chest. If I’d ever seen a human parent hold a human baby for the first time I’d probably be able to draw some parallels in the way he looked at me then – a complex mix of pride and love tinged with fear – but I haven’t, so I’ll just say he looked at me like a Mathis Le Berre looking at a piglet called Gérard that he unexpectedly now owned. 

I don’t know what fate awaits us, me and my bicyclist boy-man. Back on the farm my mother sometimes scared us with stories of the big farm in the sky – a place where we ceased being living breathing pigs and became segmented porks – but I don’t think I am destined for such a fate. I am a big brave piglet on a big adventure into the big world – from the farm to the bike race and from there to places unknown.

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