Welcome to the last source of useless cycling information, arcane racing trivia and etiquette advice you will ever need. We are very excited to have secured the services of the renowned cycling expert, Dr. Spalm, who has graciously agreed to answer our reader questions. Or at least all of those that can reasonably be discussed in a semi-family-appropriate fashion. Keep in mind that Dr. Spalm's family includes a wide selection of ne'er-do-wells, black sheep and librarians, so he is not put off by much.
In light of the recent return to cycling of a famous grand tour winner, we thought we would answer this question that was posed to us in Two Wheel Transit while we were looking for some winter riding shoes:
Dear Dr. Spalm - You seem vaguely european, so I think you can help me with this. I see that Ivan Basso is returning to the ranks of professional cycling. I have heard Signore Basso called both Birillo and Tranquilo. I have watched enough cycling to understand the basics like peloton and grand depart, but what is Ivan telling us?
Sincerely, Confused in Spokane.
Dear Confused - This is a fascinating question, so thank you for asking. Also, because I get paid by the word, I am likely to use fillers in starting and ending most of my questions. As regards Ivan Basso, these were not terms that you heard Phil and Paul tossing around in a fevered pitch as Ivan crossed a Giro mountain pass. Their comments are sufficiently confusing that not even Dr. Spalm can explain some of them.
Tranquilo, as you might deduce if you were a student of languages, as is Dr. Spalm, translates roughly to "tranquil". This is like Nyquil, in that if you have enough of either you are asleep, but it is a more peaceful and less drug-induced state. Maybe drug-induced is the wrong phrase to use here. Anyway, it means that one is at peace with him or herself. Signore Basso declared himself "tranquilo" when he was accused of doping to boost his cycling performance. He was "tranquilo" because he knew the truth of the matter and he was not bothered by such baseless and frivolous accusations. Next, he told us that he was no longer tranquilo and instead he was Birillo. Now, you might think this means that his next mental state was that of a scrubbing cleanser pad. Instead, it meant that he was, in fact, his dog.
Thank you for asking.
Team Two Wheel has pointed out that my contract does allow wordiness, but prohibits obliqueness. So, I will, at my normal per word charge provide a bit more explanation.
In the examination of a blood doping lab in Spain, there were a number of bags of blood with code names on them. One or more of these bags were labelled "Birillo", which just happened to be the name of Ivan Basso's dog. Ivan was, of course, shocked and surprised by the enormous coincidence. Despite his shock and suprise, he was also "tranquilo". Signore Basso was next shocked and surprised to find out that it is relatively easy to take a DNA test of both Ivan's blood and Birillo's blood and determine whether it was the Basso family dog that was blood doping or someone else. I hypothesize that he has less "tranquilo" at this point.
Rather than accept the potential shame of having a doping dog, Ivan confessed that he had considered blood doping, went so far as to have bags of blood stored in a medical lab 2,000 kilometers from home (HMO restrictions, I'm sure), but he had never, ever actually used any unsporting chemical or blood advantages to, for instance, transform over one winter from the back of the time trail pack to the very front. Thankfully, he saw the light before crossing over to the dark side.
So, to wrap up for my fellow students of language, tranquilo = I'm sure that my secrets are safe; Birillo = It is far better for me to confess to thinking about doping than have anyone think my dog is a doper.
Yours in Cycling, Dr. Spalm