I had planned a forensic examination of the propensity for sprinters to abandon the Giro d’Italia prior to the really big mountains in the third week, but it quickly became a health and safety no-no.
The fact is, I have a friend who gets so irate by these abandonments each year that I’m afraid to debate it online for fear of becoming a target of his vitriol.
The only vaguely printable summary he has offered in recent days is: “this is a Grand Tour, not a ******* wine tasting holiday”, as a variety of sprinters swap the team hotel for a sunny beach in Rimini.
I’m steering well clear while he calms down, only occasionally poking the hornets’ nest on social media just to watch his reaction.
But for me, the real talking points are away from the Giro and relate to the current status of Mark Cavendish’s health.
As you may be aware, he’s got Glandular Fever.
Except pro-cyclists don’t call it Glandular Fever, they call it Mononucleosis. Mono, for short. They like to be nonchalant and casual, do pro cyclists. They like to pretend nothing is a big deal. I think it’s a by-product or a defence mechanism related to the extreme lives they lead.
Mono has a greater air of mystery than Glandular Fever. Normal people get Glandular Fever. Pro cyclists get Mono. It also has far fewer syllables, and takes much less effort to say, which suits their aim of expending as little energy as possible when not riding a bike.
Especially when you’re already weakened with…Mono.
They also like to speak in their own archaic coded language. Like when they crash, for example, and pass it off as a ‘get down’.
Example conversational snippet:
Pro cyclist #1: “Did you hear about Cav? Mono, apparently…”
Pro cyclist #2: “Yeah. Only found out after he had that ‘get down’ last week.”
Pro cyclist #1: “He must be gutted?”
Pro cyclist #2: “Yeah. Super-gutted.
Pro cyclist #1: “Mmm.”
*back to staring at phones*
The other thing about Cav and his Mono is his casual approach to the return to work process.
In many areas of life there’d be a visit to the Occupational Health Nurse, a phased return to work, perhaps a review of working conditions, and even a loss of salary if it went on too long.
But Cav is the kind of guy who calls the shots, in a sport in which guys like Cav call the shots.
So he announced: “I don’t feel ill, I just feel unfit…I can’t put a definitive time on when I’m back. It could be 10 days, it could be one year, I really don’t know. But I’ll just keep riding and see.”
I like to imagine how my employers would react if I phoned in on a Monday morning with the news that I’m a bit under the weather, and I should be back, fighting fit, in no more than about 365 days or so.
I suppose it proves that, when it comes to the employer/employee power balance, thirty-odd stage wins at the world’s biggest bike race can tip the balance in your favour.
(Image: By Iggy (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)