When you are a lover of solving cryptograms and crypto filippines you come across the strangest and sometimes the most illogical descriptions. But it must also be said that sometimes there are windfalls among them. It just depends how broad your word and general knowledge is. For avid crypto solvers, the puzzle in the morning paper is just relaxing with a cup of coffee. For example, we recently came across the description "The Shark of Messina."

It is imaginable that the average puzzler will be scratching behind the ears. He/she will make the combination with Sicily, but then it is probably over and done with. Of course, we cycling fans know better. Behind this nickname is Vincenzo Nibali. So problem solved!

But it does make you think. Why is the name of a cyclist linked to an animal and are there others? Just organize the brain and more names immediately bubble to the surface. Then look on the Internet and before you know it you have a whole list of animal names together. Usually such a nickname has a particular reason, for example, arising from the character of the man in question, or by his stature, performance and so on. Trying to figure this out would go too far for this article. It would be a nice basis for a book! In the case of Nibali, we did go on a search and we would like to put him in the spotlight.

It has already been touched upon that we are going to Sicily. It was in Messina that Vincenzo Nibali was born on November 14, 1984. That Nibali has to be considered one of the most versatile riders of the 2010s is obvious if you take a quick look at the hereby pictured list of his palmares! His first notable results are the national titles on the road in the juniors (2002) and in the underpromises (2004). It is precisely at the latter championship held in Verona that we must be to get to the source of his nickname. At one point, a RAI camera zoomed in on a roadside banner that read: Forza Nibali, lo squalo dello Stretto. The banner was made by a friend who traveled with Nibali’s parents to the championship in Verona.

It is a statement by the friend because from his first races, Nibali invariably went on the attack and rode aggressively. That’s why he called him Lo squalo or the shark. Stretto refers to the strait between Sicily and the mainland. That this was later turned into Messina we take for granted, because fully it is also the Strait of Messina. The shark is again described as a slender and fast animal. Again applicable to the young Nibali. He began his pro career in 2005 at Fasso Bartolo. He then joined Liquigas between 2006 and 2012. He represents the light blue colors of the Astana Pro Team between 2013 and 2016. Then three years (2017-2019) Bahrain-Merida and then two years (2020-2021) Trek-Segafredo. In 2022, he will return to Astana. Surveying his entire career, it is noteworthy that he is in the select company of riders who have won all three grand tours.

Vincenzo Nibali

Winner of, among others

Quest France Plouay

Ronde van Slovenië


Ronde van Trentino

Nat. Kampioenschap (weg)

Ronde van Lombardije

Ronde van Oman

Ronde van Kroatië


Ronde van Sicilië

Grand Rounds:

Vuelta a España + 2 ritten

Giro d’Italia +7 ritten

Tour de France  + 6 ritten




2012, 2013

2008, 2013

2014, 2015

2015, 2017







2013, 2016


Some names from the zoo

Fedrico Bahamontes       

Michele Bartoli              

Paolo Bettini                 

Guido Bontempi            

Gianni Bugno                

Fausto Coppi                 

Tom Dumoulin              

Robert Gesink               

Thomas De Gendt          

Felice Gimondi              

André Greipel                

Dylan Groenewegen       

Cees Haast                   

Louis Herrara                

Bernard Hinault             

Zenon Jaskula               

Wilco Kelderman            

Marcel Kint                   

Robbie McEwen             

Johan Museeuw             

Gastone Nencini            

Harm Ottenbros            

Marco Pantani               

Franco Pellizotti             

Michael Rasmussen        

Thijs Roks                    

Ricardo Ricco                

Tony Rominger              

Bjarne Riss                   

Paolo Salvodelli             

Harrie Steevens            

Thorwald Veneberg        

Eagle of Toledo

Buzzard of Bergamo

Cricket Il grillo

Buffalo Il buffalo

Lizard La lucertola

Heron l’Airone

Butterfly of Maastricht Butterfly

Condor of Varsseveld

Scorpion of Semmerzake

Buzzard of Bergamo


Lion of Amsterdam

Bear of Rijsbergen

Eagle of the Andes

Badger Le Blaireau



Black Eagle


Lion of Flanders

Lion of Mugello

Eagle of Hoogerheide

Elephant El Elefantino

Dolphin El delfino di Bibione


Bear of Sprundel



Eagle of Herning

Falcon Il Falco

White raven

Bull El Torro

Text and image: Teus Korporaal
Title photo: Getty images

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