The role of the soigneur
They say it takes a village to raise a child. What if that child wanted to become a champion? It must take an army to raise a champion. That’s where the soigneur comes in. Each professional cycling team has a team of helpers who are there to see to the athlete’s every need.
Jonathan Quaglierini and Megan Earl are two key members of the Cervélo Bigla Pro Cycling Team. They attend to anything the riders and staff might need. We spoke to Jonathan to find out what the job entails.
What is the role of the soigneur?
We make sure the girls have everything they need to be successful in the race. That means not only the massages but bottles during the race, recovery after the race, food, clothing, etc... They always need mental support so I am there for them how ever they need. If they need to talk or advice or anything like that. These are the basic things that I do because it is the job, but I always try to do more if I can because I have a lot of passion for the sport and the job.
What does a typical day at a race look like?
When I first arrive at the hotel I prepare the room list and I make a plan for the days that are coming. I inform the kitchen what we would like to eat for dinners. I get up in the morning very early to prepare anything for the breakfast that the girls might need that is extra.
Then I make the plan for the day, when we will have dinner, when we will return to the hotel, what we eat at dinner, etc...
After every day, all vehicles need to be cleaned inside. I prepare the bottle next with water and drink mix. I prepare food for the staff and riders for the race and for after the race. Then I prepare the food for in the race for the riders. We usually have paninis with jam and cream cheese or banana and honey etc...
When we drive to the race, I usually drive the camper with the girls in it. When we get to the race I prepare the camper so the girls can change if necessary and then I organise the camper with race food. In the spring most of the time I put warming cream/oil on the girls legs. I make sure they have their radios and that they are properly working.
We then make sure their bikes have bottles on them. Just before the race starts, I go to the start line to take extra clothing they might have wanted to wear before the start and if necessary give them bottles if they need.
When the race starts, the race starts for us! We have a radio in the ear to be in contact with the sports director. So if they need something I am there to do it. I rush to the feed zone and prepare everything for when the peloton comes through.
When they arrive, I need to know the situation in the race because the sports director and I need to share information. If something has changed or he doesn't know the situation I will then inform him.
I feed the girls with the bottles and have one pair of wheels just in case. Depending how long the race is, I go to the second or third feed zone or go to the finish line.
When we set up at the finish, I prepare the camper for the riders before they arrive. I get their bags out so they can easily find them. I also get food out, recovery for each rider to drink and shower if they would like. I head to the finish line where I have warm clothing for the girls and I have bottle of water, drink mix, or what ever they might ask for.
I’ll show them where they can find the camper and our cars. I wait for all of the girls to finish the race and then I find out from anti-doping if any of our girls are needed.
After that is done I return to the camper to help the girls with whatever they need, making sure they have recovery drinks and food and what ever else they ask for. We then drive back to the hotel or airport. If we won the race, the rider usually has to go to the podium so the sports director will wait for them with a car. If it’s a stage race and we have more racing, then I take all of the laundry then start massages.
We then have dinner as a team and we have a team meeting afterwards. Then we clean the bottles and make sure the cars have enough gas for the next day. Before the riders go to bed, we do one final check to make sure they have everything they need then we check that laundry is finished.
This is an easy day for us.
That sounds like a full day. What time do you go to bed at the races at night and what time do you wake up?
hahahaha, you are funny! Maybe the question is wrong, the right question is – Are you allowed to sleep? It depends, maybe 1 or 2 most of the time for the big stage races we don't sleep until 3am and then I wake up at 5:30/6:00. 7:00am if I am really lucky.
How do you feel when a rider wins a race? Do you feel part of the victory?
Yeah, for sure it's easy to feel great for the rider. I feel like I have done everything I could have for that rider to be successful and to be her best for that day. So it feels good, I am passionate about it.
I was a rider and I know how much hard work it takes so I feel a lot for every rider and their success. It’s a balance between being professional and passionate, so it’s difficult to keep it sometimes but it is important.
What kind of a person does it take to be a soigneur?
I think it takes a person that is a good care taker and understands the sport of cycling. I think it helps that I was a rider so I know what the riders need to be successful. It is also good that I am passionate about the sport. Also, it takes someone that is a hard worker.
The soigneur needs to be someone that pays attention to detail, concentrated, calm, and always ready. Things change all the time and they need to be flexible. I think it is always good to want to improve everyday.
Can you tell me about your best day at a race so far?
I have to say when I go to bed and I know all the riders have everything they need and they have looked me in the eyes and have thanked me for the job I have done for that day.