Three Spanish cyclists and the mystery of the third person

January 20, 2014

Three cyclists, three quotes, one common factor.

Here is the final line of a news report on last year’s world championships in Florence:

“Clearly this is Purito’s destiny […] To lose the Giro by a whisker, then the Vuelta and now the Worlds.”

This is from the pages of Procycling magazine in 2012:

“Carlos Sastre was there for him; and when he had someone who could make his dreams come true, Carlos Sastre was in the second line.”

And this is how one rider assessed his previous season last week:

“I was often in the top five in races that mattered but that’s not good enough for Alberto Contador.”

In all three cases, the quote comes from the rider himself. Joaquim Rodriguez, Sastre and Contador are all talking about themselves in the third person.

I’m reliably informed by two people who, unlike me, can actually speak Spanish that this isn’t a quirk of the language: referring to yourself in the third person is unusual and just as likely to make you look pompous among Spaniards as it is among English-speakers. So I wonder if this is self-aggrandisement as a form of defence, because in all three cases the riders are trying to come to terms with a significant disappointment: Purito narrowly losing the world champs, Sastre constantly being Bjarne Riis’s second choice, and Contador winning only one race in 2013.

Cycling is a cruel sport with many big egos. Which makes it a bit of a mystery why we don’t see riders of all nationalities talking like this when the chips are down.

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