Picture by Alex Broadway/ASO/SWpix.com
There are plenty of reasons for being able to speak more than just your own language when participating in a multinational sport, and not just so that you can pass the time of day with the rider next to you when there’s a lull in the action within the peloton. QuickStep DS Brian Holm, who has a host of colourful stories to illustrate every aspect of racing, recalls taking part in the 1991 edition of the French one-day race, Paris-Camembert, where his multilingual ability enabled him to get the better of a stronger rival on a day when he felt so bad he didn’t even want to be racing.
“That morning my legs felt s*** and so I came up with this great plan to attack early on, knowing that the bunch would soon reel me in and drop me, so that I’d be able to pull out at the feed. The first part of that plan went well and I got away, but for some reason the peloton never did catch me up and I had to keep on going,” says Holm, then riding for the Belgian History-Sigma team.
“Eventually this super-strong Norwegian guy [Olaf Lurvik] riding for the Toshiba team bridged up to me. He was going so hard I could barely follow him. Thankfully, with about 10k’s to go his chain came off and that gave me a bit of respite, but he quickly chased back up to me again.
“By that point, the peloton was starting to close in on us and my directeur sportif came up alongside to let me know what I should do. Initially, he shouted across to me in Flemish, telling me that the bunch were too far back to catch us before the line and that the race would be decided between the Norwegian and me. Then he spoke to me again in French, telling me that the bunch were only 40 seconds behind and that we needed to ride flat out if we wanted to have any chance. ‘Allez! Allez!’ he shouted to the two of us.
“It was like he had lit the blue touch paper on the Norwegian guy. Having only understood the information given in French, he went to the front and started riding like a train. He probably thought that I was spent, but I sat in and waited until we got almost to the line, then won the sprint by about 10 lengths.”
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