Ben Stiller seems to spend his days gainfully. His social media profiles are a glimpse into a busy life as a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees ambassador, while his professional resumé is marked by accolades as a producer, director and actor. He’s even got a Guinness World Record, as operator of the world’s longest selfie stick. But in one important regard, he is just like us: glued to the cycling, cheering on his favourites.
This is a fact that we know from tweets that burble up into the cycling consciousness every so often, and it’s not even a particularly recent phenomenon. In the late 2000s, Stiller was part of the entourage of a certain 1998 Tour of Luxembourg winner, where he allegedly made a mess of a time trial bike moments before a stage start. In 2013, Stiller was wildly enthused by Chris Horner’s Vuelta a España win. He’s mourned the death of Paul Sherwen, helped organise multiple shipping containers of bikes to be sent to Uganda, and – to the delight of the paparazzi – even pootled around New York on a mountain bike.
This Giro d’Italia, however, we have a particularly compelling glimpse behind the curtain of Stiller’s cycling fandom. The Zoolander star has a favourite rider – and that favourite rider is, apparently, Geraint Thomas.
Exhibit A: before the race even began, Stiller was jumping on the hype train, flicking over three raised fists followed by Thomas’s name:
Delightfully, this tweet went unacknowledged by its recipient.
Undeterred, Stiller had another crack, escalating things to a quote-tweet 11 days later – after the Welshman had risen up the GC ranks courtesy of a spate of COVID withdrawals, many crashes and just some generally grim weather:
This time, the gravitas of the moment did not pass the maglia rosa by, with Thomas smashing the ‘like’ button like the social media natural that he is.
It’s not immediately clear why Stiller is so invested in Geraint Thomas’s Giro tilt, nor the depth of the actor’s cycling fandom. That said, an extremely tedious scroll-through of the full 2,000 or so accounts Stiller follows reveals numerous retired cycling figures, often tangentially associated with 1998 Tour of Luxembourg glory: names like Horner, Hincapie, VandeVelde, Leipheimer, Bruyneel. There’s a full suite of Schlecks, a man who famously knows where the fingers are, and Cadel Evans. Then we’ve got some David Millar action, a side serving of Vaughters, and a smidge of Trek-Segafredo. All three Grand Tours have Stiller’s attention, as does Phil Liggett.
As to current riders, there are just two: Geraint Thomas and Mark Cavendish, both riders in the later years of illustrious careers. With their retirement, will Ben Stiller’s love of cycling end? Could the comic charms of present-day Astana Qazaqstan modernise his appreciation of the sport?
In the meantime, there’s a long way to Rome, and Thomas has many challengers yet to beat – Slovenian, Portuguese, environmental and viral. But amongst that uncertainty, it’s nice to know you’ve got people in your corner … especially if it’s Ben Stiller with a raised fist emoji.
UPDATE: Ben Stiller is now on record as a fan of Geraint Thomas’s dad jokes:
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