Guest Post: Italians, sticker books, uni-brows and my crappy allowance

As spring looms near, here at Cycling Inquisition we are celebrating rebirth, and youth. How are we doing that you ask? Simple: with a post by my dear brother which showcases one of the most important items in the Cycling Inquisition archives.

Italians have done a lot for cycling, we all know that. They have given us great superstars, like Coppi, Pantani, Binda, Chiappucci and of course, the almighty king of hair-gel Mario Cipollini. As much as all cycling fans owe the Italians for the innumerable cyclists they've produced, I personally thank them for something much greater. As a cycling fanatic I thank the Italians for a company called Panini.

Choo-choo! All aboard the hair-gel express, with your captain Mr. Creepy-long-face-that-looks-like-an-Easter-Island-Statue

For those of us who grew up in places like South America and Europe, Panini is an iconic name, because it's the company that we gave all our hard-earned cash to when we were kids. For our American readers, we are talking about THE premier sticker book company in the world. What Topps was to baseball cards in the U.S., Panini is for everything else everywhere else. As a kid, I collected sticker books for the World Cup, Star Wars and even the Smurfs. I would gladly skip lunch in school, save the money and use it to buy the album and sticker packs. Of course, 3 out of the 5 stickers in each pack where inevitably doubles, so I would take those to school and trade with other kids (and often teachers as well). There was also a black market, photocopied stickers sold by street vendors outside shopping centers all over the country. As a huge sports fan, I completed more soccer albums than I care to admit. As a huge pack rat, I still have them all. As a broke New Yorker, my apartment in Brooklyn was small and therefore a lot of my belongings ended up in storage for years. Until recently.

Now, I've moved to the suburbs of Connecticut, and can finally afford a place larger than a shoebox. So, a short while ago, I emptied my storage room and started going through the numerous boxes I'd kept there. When I opened one of the boxes, I saw the familiar cover of the Mexico '86 Panini album. I smiled to myself and started thumbing through it. I remembered getting all pissed off at myself for placing a few of the stickers crooked back then. Memories of my childhood rushed through my mind. After the Mexico '86 album I moved on to Spain '82, Copa Suramericana '96 and France 98... and then, I saw it. The crown jewel of the collection:

The human mind is a weird thing. There can be something you haven't thought about in years, and therefore (as far as you're concerned) it never existed. But then you see that thing again, and it all comes back to you. Every detail. It's like memories were suddenly created out of thin air, right then and there. Magic. I grabbed the sticker book in disbelief. I automatically recognized it as the 1987 Burger King/Panini cycling album. Without even opening it, I grabbed my phone and called my brother. I had to give him the news. I had just found a huge part of our childhood. He didn't pick up.

"Goddamit, Lucho, where are you?"

My phone rings back, with my brother on the other end.

- "Lucho, you are not gonna believe what I just found!"

- "A Russian mail-order bride?"

- "Better! Do you remember..."

Within seconds we were reminiscing about the 1987 season. Stephen Roche, Marino Lejarreta, Phil Anderson and his huge teeth, Gilbert Duclos-Lasalle... all these names became a reality again as I described each page to my brother over the phone. We both remembered what most of the pictures looked like. The rider's expressions, their faces. We remembered that Raul Alcala was photographed inside a car, and similar details about each picture. Clearly we had looked at this album millions of times as kids. We obsessed over it, and it showed since we both had it memorized. As we talked more about it, my brother was too excited to hear anymore about it. He asked that I hang up, and send him some pictures of it. He texted me back after I sent 3 or 4 images: "You have to do a post about this."

So, here we are... I now give you a piece of our childhood: The 1987 Panini Burger King Ciclismo Sticker Album.

Burger King sponsored the album, and if you bought a combo at Burger King, you'd get a pack with 5 stickers. My family seldom ate at fast food places, but I guess we made an exception for this important sticker album.You were supposed to cut the Burger King logo out off the wrapper of each pack and glue them onto this page. Once you got 60, you'd send the form in to receive a poster and some other junk. As you can see I didn't even get close.

One of the questions they asked in the form was if you'd collected other Panini sticker albums. Then they asked you if you had completed them. I checked the box 'NO' Then, they asked why not? In my best script I informed them "for lack of funds." My allowance was non-existent. It was all my mom's fault!

Here are a few scans of the sticker book, to give you an idea of just what kind of treasure this thing is. At least to us. Oh, the memories. You can click on any of these images to see them larger.

A typical spread in the album. This was the one for the Cafe de Colombia Team. Notice that I was missing 2 stickers, the top of Fabio Parra and Martin Ramirez. This team was stacked in '87. Luis Herrera: KOM in all three grand tours; Fabio Parra: Podium at the Tour; Martin Ramirez: Winner of the Dauphine in '84, Israel Corredor, Alfonso Florez, Henry Cardenas... Each of these names bring back countless memories. As do these individual pictures.

I swear on my mother, this picture has NOT been photoshopped or altered in any way. Yup, that is a 100% genuine uni-brow. Not aero at all.

The Carrera team, headed by Stephen Roche. Also two of my favorites at the time Claudio Chiapucci and The Swiss climber Urs Zimmerman. Notice the beautiful pastel colors used in the backgrounds of these pages. Very soothing.

Interesting: Sean Kelly is pictured receiving the KOM jersey in the Vuelta, a classification he never won. Also, the Kelme team apparently only had 5 guys that season and three of them were Colombian. Hmmm... sounds a little suspicious to me, maybe an intern lost all the other pictures and they had to reduce the team's presence in the album. One more thing to note: After multiple transformations Kwantum has turned into what we know today as Rabobank.

Rooks simply can't believe someone misspelled his first name. "They did what? Stevens Rooks? You gotta be kidding me!" He also can't believe how much he looks like John Waite.

Last page of the Kwantum team and the beginning of the Toshiba Look team, featuring a headless Greg Lemond. Let's not forget the random Bernard Hinault Shot.

Hitachi headed by former WC Claude Criquelion

Van Den Brandelook looking grumpy due to his third place at Flanders the year prior.

Spread featuring Phil Anderson's huge chompers!

Stieda completes his surfer-dude look by rocking the Zinka sun block

When I was a kid, if you saw the blue and white of team Panasonic go up to the front of the peloton, you knew the breakaway was fucked. Way before HTC/Columbia did it, these guys refined the art of controlling races. Their secret? Sweet headbands. Opposite page: 7-Eleven.

And I thought Ag2r had ugly jerseys! RMO look look like someone just sneezed on them. Who is that on the bottom left? None other than Paul Kimmage. One over from Kimmage is Thierry Claveryrolat, who sadly would later commit suicide by shooting himself with a riffle.

When I was a kid, I had 2 arch-enemies: the kid Alvaro from across the street, who never invited me to play Atari with him.... and Systeme U. This evil team were under the mind-numbing control of super villain and notorious xenophobe Laurent Fignon (rest in peace). They were worse than Lex Luthor and the Injustice League. And their kits made them look a little bit like bumble bees.

Three of my all-time favorites in one spread: Eduardo Chozas, Raimund Dietzen and Duclos-Lasalle. Of course at the time I didn't even know who he was.

Ah, the 80s, when cigarrette companies (in this case Derby), sponsored sports teams. Sigh...

Look at that beautiful face, and also notice that he had to tie his jersey (for best-placed amateur) in a knot, and roll up the sleeves because it's too big on him.

"I swear I'm not related to Jeffrey Dahmer, nor did I steal his child molestor glasses"

Proof positive that Magnum P.I. was a runaway hit in Poland.

When mustaches ruled the peloton. Note the Felipe Jewelers shorts and cap. (You can read about the team's significance within Colombian cycling here)

Here are few more images.

So, there you have it. A huge part of our childhood, for all to enjoy. If you want to see other cycling sticker albums, check out this amazing Italian collection. Enjoy.