Sunday, July 09, 2006

What's In A Name?

Without going into a lot of details, let's just say that the first long individual time trial of the 2006 Tour de France didn't quite go as expected. Levi Leipheimer sucked. David Zabriskie and George Hincapie underachieved. Floyd Landis kicked ass again, but, like in the prologue, he suffered mechanical troubles and lost precious seconds.

The winner was not-so-surprising Serguei Gonchar of T-Mobile. Long a gifted time trialist (and former World Champion in the discipline), Gonchar flew to victory with more than a minute between himself and second place Landis.

Photo courtesy of AFP

So Gonchar won. Or did he?

Gonchar has long been a mystery to me because he apparently has several dozen names. Nobody ever talks about it, but it is apparently impossible to decide which spelling of his name is correct. To illustrate my point, we'll take a quick tour of some popular cycling web sites: calls him "Sergui Gonchar" in their report on the ITT results (linked above). In the shorter Stage 7 Wrap-Up, his first name becomes "Serguei". However, in the 2006 Teams Database on the same site, his name is "Serhiy Honchar".

In the report on the TT results, a photo caption lists the winner as "Sergei Gonchar" but the text of the report calls him "Sergie Honchar". That's not all, though, because in the results listings at the bottom of the page, the winner is listed as both "Serhiy" and "Sergie" Honchar. For those at home keeping count, that's three different spellings on one page! is more consistent, but still different, calling the winner "Sergei Gontchar" with a "t".

The official Tour de France site refers to the winner as both "Serhiy" and "Sergiy" Honchar on the same page.

But, the spelling of his name is "Serhiy Honchar" on the official T-Mobile web site and is the most commonly used version on most sites in general. You'd think his own team would get his name right.

Apparently not so. In an interview with just posted today, the man himself says that the correct spelling of his name is really "Serguei Gonchar". The "Serhiy Honchar" spelling comes from an apparent mistake on his passport, which he is therefore forced to use legally despite being incorrect.

Regardless of all that, he's quite a locomotive despite being 36, and definitely earned his stage win and his maillot jaune. Congrats to him, whatever his name is.