Some of the finest cyclists to have ever lived have been given a spectacular makeover, thanks to illustrator Sam Taylor and his Pantheon For Speed project.
Eddy Merckx, Sean Kelly, Roger De Vlaeminck, Mario Cipollini and Marco Pantani all feature in the project, with Taylor honing in on the riders’ nicknames and specialities. “Eddy Merckx being ‘The Cannibal’ and Marco Pantani being called ‘Il Pirata‘ is an illustrator’s dream, there’s so much to go on,” Taylor says. “They’re all larger than life as it is and have so much character that it was quite easy to be honest. I just had to emphasise all the little details and make them visually pleasing.”
According to Taylor, it’s the variety that makes them special: “You have Super Mario chilling on a beach and Roger De Vlaeminck charging through cobbles in the wet,” he says. ” They’re at different ends of the spectrum but somehow they go together perfectly as a team. You need that ying and yang.”
The project came about after Manual For Speed got in touch with Taylor asking for some of the greatest cyclists of all time to be brought together “in some sort of god-like council, where their job is to govern cycling from the clouds and make sure it gets better.” Taylor explains, “They picked the cyclists and then I did a bunch of research about each guy, I knew the basics about most of them anyway but YouTube and Google definitely helped me get a better understanding of what each guy is about.”
Taylor admits he was far from an aficionado in regards to professional cycling, more interested in football and skateboarding, with the latter having “a number of similarities”. Not surprisingly, his interest grew because of the sport’s visuals and his own imagination. He explains: “I like having the Tour de France on in the background — the ITV coverage is great, loads of nice scenic shots and history of the regions. Then I got more and more into the actual cycling, especially the relationship between the individual and the team, with each person using their own skills to come together for a common goal. It’s like X-Men or The Magnificent Seven. The unsung heroes and the glory guys working together like Ian Stannard putting in the grit for Chris Froome.”
Originally from Leicester, Taylor is now based in London. His distinctive style is based on classic cartoons, but with satirical and brazen panache. While his work covers far more than cycling, this particular project ensures the protagonists’ flaws, traits and flamboyance and heightened in the extreme.