Soigneur (swan-yer)

A French term common in the cycling world; no real English translation, but basically means ‘to care for’. In the cycling world, a soigneur does everything from bag carrying to laundry to race bottle/race food preparation to massage. Sometimes, though you go above and beyond the call of duty. These are TRUE stories from my time on the road.

Episode 1; ‘Confidence’  Sometime in 2001 my mentor with the GT Mountain Bike Team, Waldec, told me the simple secret to being a successful soigneur.

“ALWAYS have supreme confidence.   It doesn’t matter what about, just act as though what you’re doing is right. (Unless it’s dangerous.)  Pro riders are tweaky and they get shaken if they don’t see you doing what you do with confidence”.

Fast-forward to the 2002 Tour de France.  I am driving some riders to the start of some stage somewhere –  it doesn’t matter where.  We didn’t caravan because of some delicate ‘nature’ issues of one of the riders.  So, I am driving crazy to get us to the sign-in and the start.

Suddenly, I realize I am going the wrong way. So:  how do I act like I know what I am doing?  “Just act with confidence…”   I see a super-old, rock bridge along the roadway.  I slam on the brakes, jump out of the team car, snap a quick picture, turn the car around and jam us back the other way towards the start.

The riders are quiet, but I am projecting confidence. One works up the courage to ask what that was about. I casually say that that was the very bridge where the Roman legion finally conquered the last holdout band adding French territory to the Roman Empire… I added that I thought it was about 1312 AD. They were stunned I was so intellectual, and never doubted me.

So… Remember that.  Supreme confidence.