Andrea, 31, is a first timer at the next Olympic Games: on the 21st of August he’s going to give it all in Rio. I am Italian and I part for him, however I sense he’s got a chance to medal.
This is not a supporter’s speculation. I am claiming that because I speak to him a week ago. Despite he’s very active on facebook, he’s a very private person. I reached him on his mobile and, even though the call was agreed he seemed a bit wary. There I understood Andrea Tiberi is not an “idol” type, he’s more of the kind of an inspired racer. He loves the sport and he’s focused on performing well. Popularity didn’t seem a priority at all, even though today’s marketing rules suggest so.
This was our conversation:
Movimentore: You always lived in the mountains, is that what gave impulse to your racing career?
Tiberi: Yes, it certainly was very important. Stay where playing your sport is beautiful makes everything easier. On the other hand, in Val di Susa, where I come from, there aren’t many cyclists because all the people usually go skiing. In fact, I started my sportive career in cross-country skiing, discipline that I keep practicing in winter. Cold winters might be a factor: riding on a mtb in winter at altitude is quite hard. That’s why I often train alone, especially in winter.
M: So you’re often alone, I thought in the mountains there were plenty of mountain bikers to train with!
T: I am not completely on my own, there’s some young buddy that seldom comes with me… as I told you all the people practice skiing and particularly alpine skiing.
M: The mtb season seems very intense to me, how do you deal with pressure?
T: No, it’s not so intense, we have about 30 races a year. That means I have a lot of weekends off! Then we have a long pause in November when you can restore yourself before training gets hard again.
M: You’re right, but in running for example you try to reach a peak for a single race, so many races during the season are not a major objective.
T: I see your point, here’s the difference: in mtb a race is a race at top level! There are no “preparatory” races, you have to rely on your training only.
M: I didn’t use to follow you on facebook before someone told me you are a very skilled writer, so I started to read your “debriefings”, you do have some talent!
T: Thank you. At the begin it didn’t feel easy at all, then I improved in the process. Usually the race reports on the news are not very emotional, they just give information about results. I think people can try to live the race from inside. It’s not about speed and numbers, but also about feelings and emotion.
M: I read about your health problem this winter. It must be a tough one, mentally.
T: Yes, a cancer changes everything and makes you think a lot. I know I have been lucky and mine has been a really minor episode in comparison with other dramatic situations. However, it was a slap in the face. I discovered it in January, at the beginning of the Olympic year. My participation at the Olympics was not confirmed yet and I am not a freshman anymore, so I feared what I tried to build in my entire life was at a stake. Well, it was: now I try always to look at the big picture, what I previously I considered everything in my life is now marginal, just a piece of the whole.
M: How did you come out of this experience? Did you completely recover?
T: The illness makes you feel guilty of having wasted some of your time, that you might have done something different in your life. Then you get back to your everyday life, enriched of a new balance. I feel more conscious. Physically I am ok, but my form is not yet 100%. In the latest races I felt I am increasingly getting better, and I’ll certainly be at my top for the biggest of the races.
M: If I say #roadtorio what comes to mind?
T: Before I discovered my thyroid cancer, I was using the tag feeling positively sure I would have made it, then I completely stopped using it, feeling overwhelmed. In June I officially qualified for the Olympic team, until then I just think at the race.
Last time (London) I was cut out of the team as the first non-qualifier. That was a big burden to bring on, at the times I told myself I wouldn’t fail and from 2012 I continuously improved. I’m definitely not going to Rio just to make the experience. I want to do my best.
M: Thank you, I wish you the best!