"First All-Nude Ghent-Bruges Triathlon"

Roger van der Wayout

The Dark Ages were a time of odd manias and compulsions, like the Flagellation Mania of 1124, the Marathon Dance Mania of 1374, and the Silly Hats Mania of 1402. Most unusual of all of them was the Nude Triathlon Mania of 1450, a 26-kilometer swimming, bicycling and running marathon that tested the mettle of even the toughest peasant. Held under the auspices of the Hanseatic League, the event was unusual in two respects: first, that it was co-ed, secondly, that no one knew what a bicycle was.


Van der Wayout, as official painter of the triathlon, positioned himself near the end of the racecourse to better capture the expressions on the faces of the competitors who had made it that far. This painting, published in the following morning's Gruges Staats-Enquirer, revealed the unanticipated obstacle course that marked the last 5 km of the race. Here the athletes have run into the 5-Alarm Hot Pepper Sauce on the road surface. One of the racers has fallen into a cleverly-disguised trap door, one of several on the latter part of the route. Other obstacles included pig fat on the roadway, the ice cube hazard and the flock of angry chickens. The participants protested the unannounced change in the rules to the Pan-Europe Mania Committee, but the bribe they sent along with their letter was insufficient for the committee to take any action.

 

Although the painting was later awarded the News Painting of the Year, Sports Category prize, and made it to the cover of Manias Illustrated, van der Wayout felt that commercial success only cheapened his art, and limited his commissions thereafter to altarpieces and religious portraits. He died in poverty, only half-completing the portrait of Bishop Lester the Obese, and was buried behind the Antwerp Hall of the Formerly Famous before its relocation to Charleroi. His whereabouts today are unknown.

 

BACK          NEXT