“I can also shout ‘you’re worthless!’ and ‘you’re not getting paid this month!’” proudly proclaims Stein Van der Plorken, Directeur Sportif for the Danish continental squad, Hoonvurp KD.
“Our team is like the goddam UN,” explains Van der Plorken. “In team meetings, when I speak in my native tongue, I get blank stares from most of the room. And don’t even get me started on the friggin’ Kazakhs.
“I know they can understand me, but they still just sit there – making me look like an idiot.”
“He thinks we’re from Uzbekistan or someplace,” explains neo-pro Yurpi Devnichek through a translator. “He’s always shouting some crazy language at us. It sorta sounds like Russian, but Mirka (Tserdignyev) and I are Albanian. Stein thinks if he repeats himself louder and slower, we’ll somehow understand. We have no idea what the hell he’s talking about until Prevak, the soigneur, tells us.
“It’s tense for a moment or two, but it’s kinda fun seeing him get so worked up.”
The demands on his knowledge of languages frustrate Van der Plorken. “When we signed the new kid from Estonia, I about lost it. Great! There’s another 100 Euro I get to spend on RosettaStone just so I can talk to some guy for a couple of months before he quits or we sack him. I should own stock in that goddam software.”
Van der Plorken explains his approach to conversing with such a diverse squad. “It’s impossible to be fluent in all the riders’ languages. I learn the bare minimum just so I can communicate the essentials. Principally, it’s what needs to be said on the road to motivate them. Phrases like ‘go faster or you’re fired!’ tend to be the most effective.
“Another useful phrase is ‘your mommy isn’t here.’”
Van der Plorken continues, “I don’t care what country you’re from, everyone understands ‘doping control!’ Man, it’s fun to yell that in the middle of the night and watch them scurry like roaches.
“Take that, you wise-ass Kazakhs.”