Any cyclist, from Chris Froome right down to…well, me, is liable to have an off day from time to time. And with off days, come…excuses.
‘I’m off the pace’, you might say, or if you want to sound a bit ‘pro’ you might claim that, on the whim of the cycling gods, you haven’t ‘got the legs’.
But when explaining his slightly lacklustre 2014 season thus far, Italian Vincenzo Nibali this week seemed to be talking in riddles.
After a strong year in 2013, where he won the Giro d’Italia and took a battling second place to the ageing American Chris Horner in the Vuelta Espana, it was looking like 2014 was sure to be the year of Nibali v Froome; but results so far this year have not materialised, forcing the Sicilian to wonder where he is going wrong.
Talking to cyclingnews.com recently, he began his self-analysis cryptically, saying:
“For me it has certainly not been a happy start with several problems that have hindered me.”
“It is clear that this cannot continue. When one thing does not go as you want it to, nothing goes right.”
And finished with this glorious explanation:
“Last year I was a Nibali from another planet. Now, at this point, I’m normal. Terrestrial.”
Not for him the tedious wittering about mystery illnesses or plain bad luck…no, we get cryptic hints at unspecified problems, and the conclusion that his form is so bad, it’s ‘terrestrial’.
It’s not often a sportsman gives an explanation you’ve never heard before.
If the same analysis were given by Bradley Wiggins or Mark Cavendish following a few bad days on the bike, the British tabloids would be busily dusting off their E.T. graphics and super-imposing the cyclist’s face to make an slapstick back page headline before you could say ‘Steven Spielberg’.
I’m guessing – not being an Italian speaker – but I have a feeling Nibali’s interview explanations might have been lost in translation somewhat, which is a shame really; I, for one, would love to hear my favourite sportspeople move on from trotting out the usual tired, meaningless, media friendly nonsense and using their imagination a bit.
This goes beyond cycling, of course; we get footballers making the tedious assumption that the luck evens itself out over the season, formula 1 racing drivers talking about not quite having the right ‘package’, and cricketers failing to execute their ‘skill-set’…
…all of which leaves me cold and yearning for, at the very least, an honest reaction to whatever question was asked, such as:
“We’ve had nothing but bad luck all season, and I’m sick of it”
“Frankly, my car is rubbish”, or
“What happened was, I dropped the ball…that’s all’.
Hats off to Nibali and his unusual assessment of his current form; from now on, whenever I feel like I’m not riding quite as well as I should be (which, to be honest, is at least 99% of the time), I intend to casually brush this off with the explanation that I am ‘just normal…terrestrial’…
(…although, having not won the Giro d’Italia, it might be pushing it to say that last year I was a ‘ragtime cyclist from another planet’).