If you’re fairly new to the Tour de France, you may have been baffled by the cameras focusing on one spectator in particular: the Tour de France Devil.
The Tour de France devil – otherwise known as Didi the Devil – was for decades an almost essential part of watching the Tour de France.
A 71-year-old with a bushy beard, dressed head-to-toe in a devil get-up, complete with Tour de France-themed trident is not necessarily something you’d expect to see at the world’s largest cycling event.
However, having made an appearance at every race between 1993 and 2014, fans who have watched the Tour for a long time expected to see him running along the roadside in every edition of the race.
But who is the Tour de France Devil? And why is he dressed as a devil anyway?
Don’t worry! In this article, we’ll spare no detail in the tale of the Tour de France Devil. To get you up to speed, we’ll be covering:
- Who Is The Tour De France Devil?
- Will The Tour De France Devil Be There In 2023?
Let’s dive in!
Who Is The Tour de France Devil?
Didi Senft (AKA the Didi the Tour de France Devil) is a cycling fanatic, born in West Germany in 1952.
His bushy beard, wacky costume, and trident were an iconic sight at the roadside in Le Tour, so much so that his presence was often marked on the road with a characteristic trident to mark his location on a stage.
This has led to some trouble in the past though. When he painted his signature trident on the road during the 2006 Tour de Suisse, the Swiss police instructed him to remove it or face a hefty fine.
Every year since 1993, Didi’s extremely recognizable character was spotted on at least one of the stages.
He managed to fund his travels through a sponsorship, and so was effectively getting paid to go to cycling races dressed as a devil – a fairly unorthodox job, to put it lightly.
After a few years, he would usually get picked up by the cameras, with replays provided of his roadside antics as the peloton zoomed past.
His consistent presence was appreciated by the riders, too, often giving a slight acknowledgment that he was there during the race, and he often gets to meet the riders after the stages that he attends.
One of the most famous moments in Didi’s Tour de France history was when he received a high-five from the yellow jersey, Chris Froome, mid-way up a brutal Alpine climb.
He spurs the riders up the steep climbs, running alongside the road and bellowing encouragements at the struggling riders.
He gained his love for cycling while secretly watching the Tour de France when growing up in West Germany, and would hear the Tour de France commentators refer to the red flag that marked the final kilometer of the race as “the devil’s red flag”.
This also provided the inspiration for his iconic devil costume.
His antics at the Tour de France have seemingly inspired others to the roadside dressed as angels and devils – he even knows some of them, too.
Ricardo the Angel, who has been attending the Tour since 1996, is someone he has come to know through their somewhat-niche mutual love of dressing as sub-deities at cycling races.
In general, however, he isn’t the biggest fan of all the new devils popping up, as he told Bicycling:
Every year there are some new devils. I don’t give them advice because everybody has to work for their own success.Didi Senft
The Tour de France devil doesn’t encompass all of Didi’s only cycling-related fame – he is also an inventor and holds 17 Guinness World Records for various unique bicycles.
For example, Did Senft also holds the record for creating the world’s largest rideable bike.
He also didn’t limit his visits to the Tour but was also occasionally spotted at the Giro D’Italia, World Championships, and the odd Spring Classic, although there wasn’t the same expectancy of his presence as there was with the Tour.
At other events, Didi often adjusts his signature look somewhat, wearing a pink devil costume at the Giro in 2011 and 2012.
He, unfortunately, missed the 2013 Tour de France, the only race that he didn’t attend since 1993, due to undergoing treatment for a blood clot on the brain.
Fortunately, he survived and regained his health and was spotted the following year, much to the joy of the other spectators, riders, and commentators alike.
In 2014, Didi the Devil announced that he’d be hanging up the trident, retiring from his attendance at the Tour de France. He cited his ill health and lack of sponsorship as his reasoning for not being able to attend subsequent races.
However, since 2014, he has been at every single edition of the race, showing that perhaps his health has improved since then and that he still has the means to pay the travel costs of attending the race.
Will the Tour de France Devil Be There In 2023?
Ah, the question on everyone’s lips. With the Tour de France 2023 just around the corner, is Didi the Devil going to be there?
It is a difficult one to answer, given that he’s 71. And, there are already many lining up to try and replace him.
In addition to the numerous other devils seen every year, others are trying to grab the attention of the cameras by dressing in different but equally outlandish and niche costumes.
At the 2022 Tour de France, for example, a man dressed head-to-toe in black and white striped clothing, with a French flag flung over his shoulder, holding a sign reading “La Terre Est Plate” (“the Earth is flat”) was spotted at the roadside.
After some brief questioning by the guys at Velo, he said that the devil will no longer be attending the Tour de France due to age (though he was actually at the exact stage where this took place), and upon being asked if he’s “the new devil”, he responded:
I will take his place, yes. I will be famous like him.Tour de France Flat Earth Guy on Didi the Devil
At the center of his attempt to usurp the Tour de France devil was his notion that the “Earth Is Flat”, something that has become a bizarre and rich conspiracy around the world.
Although there’s little chance of Tour de France Flat Earth Guy replacing Didi the Devil, it does seem a possibility that Didi’s attendance at the Tour de France will come to an end in the coming years.
On the other hand, he has consistently attended every single Tour de France since 1993 (except 2013), and clearly, he enjoys being the devil, so there’s no reason for him to stop.
A few years ago in an interview with Bicycling, he stated his long-term intentions for the devil, and when asked how long he plans to work as the devil, he said:
Until I’m 80 years old or longer! It is like an addiction. My grandchildren accompany me to some races as little devils. In the future they will drive the car and I will sit in the back and wave.Didi the Devil
So, of course, nothing is certain (except that the Earth is round…) but it’s clear that there’s a good chance we’ll see Didi’s familiar character, the Tour de France devil, at this year’s Tour de France.