Cycle teams, like rock bands, have roadies. The roadies pro cycling teams have are broken down into three sub-groups: doctors, mechanics and soigneurs.
The doctors obviously look after all the medical stuff (and in the past some stuff they shouldn’t have), the mechanics keep the bikes working and make sure all the team cars are clean and shiny in the morning…and the soigneurs?
Soigneur is apparently a French word which means helper and the Soigneurs, or ‘swannies’ as the Garmins call them, do a lot of helping. So far I’ve established they do the following:
In the morning they make sure all the riders have full water bottles on their bikes and that each team car is loaded with spare water bottles (bidons) in ice chests along with food, power bars etc. They even make sure there’s a sandwich in the team cars for any guests – that will be me on Tuesday I hope.
On the journey in the bus to the start of the stage another swannie is on hand to fire up the coffee machine and keep the liquids flowing. Meanwhile I assume another Soigneur is taking care of the guys’ bags which miraculously appear in their hotel rooms later in the day.
Once the riders have set off to race another Soigneur is already half-way along the course at the Feed Zone waiting with musettes, small cotton bags, filled with more food, snacks and goodies so the riders can keep stoking their engines as they race past. Be careful – such is the confusion at the Feed Zone as the riders pedal past and pick up their musettes from their various Soigneurs that it’s not uncommon for an accident to happen.
At the race finish a Soigneur waits with towels, chilled water (available from the Vittel stand found at the finish line) and maybe spare dry clothes if the weather demands it – at the end of the Hautacam stage there was no room for the team buses so the riders changed from their sweat-sodden kit in the cold mountain air and freewheeled 15k back down the hill to where the buses were waiting in fresh kit.
On the bus after the race a Soigneur is churning out bowls of oatmeal and other snacks to help those bodies recover.
Once back at the hotel the Soigneurs perform what is possibly their most important function – giving each rider a relaxing and invigorating massage which makes sure the blood is flowing and those tired muscles are able to recuperate.
From this list of tasks you must assume there are 10 Soigneurs hard at work but, as far as I can establish, the Garmins have four. Last night one of the Soigneurs told me a poll was published of the 10 worst jobs in professional sports.
Soigneurs came in with a bullet at #9.