I wasn’t in Belgium to watch the Tour of Flanders this year. Which was lucky really, because had I been, I’d have missed yet another master-class from the Eurosport commentary team.
With thirty kilometres to go Sean Kelly was busily mangling his pronunciations and referring, gloriously, to eventual breakaway winner Gilippe Philbert.
If there wasn’t already a cyclist called Philbert then he would have to be invented.
And there wasn’t.
So Kelly did.
Our commentators reminded us, as Philippe Gilbert burst clear with sixty kilometres to go, that he wasn’t going to win from there. Not with a clutch of the finest bike riders on the planet chasing him down.
Get real, cycling fans.
But, y’know, he’s a brave boy etc. etc.
And the kilometres ticked down. And the Belgian’s lead remained intact. And the pitch of the commentary changed.
“He might just do it here!”
Kelly speculated, and re-speculated, and revised his predictions, and then wavered a bit, before declaring, with two kilometres to go and a thirty second lead in his pocket:
“I think he really should be able to do it from here.”
Bearing in mind that with two kilometres to go and a thirty second lead, I really would have been able to do it from there.
From the moment Gilbert and team mate Tom Boonen had a little chat and then blew the race to pieces with sixty kilometres to go it was impossible, it was implausible, it was…implossible.
But then I’m a romantic.
I think every breakaway is going to win, until they don’t. And then I just reset and think the next one will. And every now and then a Gilbert happens.
As for the mighty Sean Kelly, he saved his piece de resistance until the post-race interviews. As Gilbert had a Belgian microphone thrust into his face co-commentator Carlton Kirby asked Kelly:
“So Sean, how’s your Flemish?”
“Pretty good,” he replied, nonchalantly.
Before proceeding to translate Gilbert’s interview, picking out the words that sounded a bit like English and then building the rest around it.
“Attacked here…felt good…bit of luck…and that was that…more or less.”
Kelly gave the translation that I, a non-Flemish speaker, would have given had I been forced to.
Cool, calm, unruffled.
Next time I’m asked to translate Flemish I’ll say, “yeah, sure I can speak Flemish,” and just give it a bash.
And next time I see Philippe Gilbert go for an epic breakaway I’ll assume, as usual, that he’s going to win.
But from now on, he’ll always be Gilippe Philbert.