A soigneur’s job starts the day before a race. A team is usually designated a race hotel and it’s the day before when everyone travels from different places to meet at this one point.
Jodie talked us through what is her first port of call when landing at the hotel:
“If I’m there first, I’ll check everyone in at reception. Then it’s simply a case of going round all the rooms and checking them. For example check that all the twin rooms are actually twin rooms and not doubles. I open up all the rooms, put water in them for the riders and leave the key cards on the side. Then I’ll send round a room list to riders in the race whatsapp group so they can go straight to their rooms when they arrive.”
Once everyone has turned up then preparation can start for the next day. For the soigneurs this involves getting as much done as possible to make their lives easier the next day. This includes making race food and bottles, checking they have everything they need and that it’s all in the right place for race day. Between the soigneurs and mechanics they also wash all the vehicles and clean them inside. Once the riders turn up and have decided whether they’re doing a pre race ride or not, the soigneurs can draw up a quick massage rota to accommodate this. Each soigneur will get three riders each.
“Once massages are done, riders go for dinner together and then only come and see us if they need anything else”.
Having worked with the team now for a number of years, both Jodie and Tuc know the riders very well and know what their preferences are when it comes to race day nutrition.
“Mostly at stage races the riders will want normal food as well as sports nutrition because of the consecutive days. Obviously they will use OTE products such as Energy Gels and Duo Bars but around that they like to have things like brioche with cream cheese and honey, Speculoos or Nutella. We make the riders rice cakes too. This is like a solid rice pudding that we make the night before, put it in the fridge and it sets (Check out the OTE Recipe here). Then we will wrap that up in the morning ready for the race start around midday.”
In the morning the soigneurs will make the post race food as well. What they make will depend on how long the transfer is from the stage finish to the hotel is. If it’s a short transfer they tend to make the riders a wrap or a bagel, if its longer then it’s effectively longer until the evening meal so they will want something more filling like pasta, gnocchi or rice. Some riders like some flavour, vegetables and things and some rider just like plain food. The idea of this small snack/meal is the help the riders start their recovery for the next day so it’s important if includes 25g of protein, carbohydrates and that they’re drinking also during the transfer. This should then tide them over and then once they’re back at the hotel they’ll have their massage and then main evening meal.
When at a race hotel you don’t have the luxury of just nipping to the kitchen when hunger strikes. So normally outside the soigneur’s room there is a big snack box that doubles up as a breakfast box too. Not necessarily the case at Tour de Yorkshire, but at smaller races in foreign countries when you go for the hotel breakfast, it isn’t that great or it’s unfamiliar to the riders. So a travelling breakfast box means you can pad out what is available with stuff that the riders request.
“Lots of them want almond milk these days rather than normal, so that’s key. The box may have some different cereals, you’ll have all your jams, spreads and things like that too. For after the race there’ll be some treats in there like waffles, brioche, bananas. There is always OTE protein bars in there as well as some of the lads like to have a protein bar just before bed.”
One key job of a soigneur is preparing all the bottles for the team. When using energy drink, this can’t be done too far in advance and so it’s something that needs to be repeated daily.
“This usually depends how long the stages are. TDY is a bit weird as we have two long stages and two short stages. You also need to consider how warm it’s going to be. Riders start with two bottles on their bikes, some bottles need to go in the car, and we have two cars at this race, and bottles also need to go to the feed. So we’ll make 9-10 bottles per rider for a long stage.”
Soigneurs will always accompany the riders to the stage start. Here they will make sure the riders can get their hands on whatever they need for their back pockets, give activation leg rubs and generally just be a helping hand has riders prepare for the stage.
On stage 1 of Tour de Yorkshire it was particularly wet so riders headed for the start line in long sleeves and waterproofs. Jodie was there to grab these off the riders before the flag was dropped and the stage started.
Then the ‘unofficial’ race to feed station starts! The soigneurs head to the designated feeding point on the route straight after the riders leave at the start. This can be one of the most stressful parts of the day due to time and navigation. Big races will sort out where the big buses are going but they don’t work out for the soigneurs the best way from a busy start to a remote feeding zone and then back to a busy finish. So Tuc and Jodie always have to figure that out, with a little help from google maps. Sometimes they can get caught in traffic and it can be a big rush to beat the riders there.
“Once we arrive we’ll then have our own lunch and make up any musettes we might not have had time to make in the morning. Normally you tell the riders what is going in the musettes in the morning so there is no surprises, and so they know what to pack in their jersey pockets. Most riders will be quite independent just in case they miss a feed or something. Today the musettes contain 2 normal Energy Gels, 1 caffeine gel, a Duo Bar, a coke, a small pack of Haribo, one bottle of water and one bottle of Energy Drink.”
If the riders miss a musette then the team cars behind the race will take the bags off the soigneurs and the riders can still go back to there. We keep the cars well stocked anyway so it’s like a little tuck shop for them. They always have the option of going back to the car and in there for this race they have the Duo Bar, Anytime Bar and Gels that the DS will pass out the window to the riders.
A day of a soigneur is long and tiring for sure, but when it ends like Stage 1 of Tour de Yorkshire with a rider being in the day long break and coming away with the Sprints Jersey…it brings so much joy the team and is most definitely worth it. But as soon as they’re back at the hotel it’s time to eat, sleep and then repeat the process again.
Thank you to Jodie, Tuc and the whole Canyon dhb p/b Bloor Homes team for their time.
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