With the Tour de Yorkshire practically on the door step of the OTE Bunker we jumped at the opportunity to visit the Lotto NL Jumbo Team. We sent our Nutritionist Annie along to use our back stage pass. Soigneurs (from the french ‘one who provides care’) are an integral part of any professional cycling teams. They go about their endless list of jobs in an almost stealth like manor so as not to disrupt the riders around them. Food, bottles, clothing, massage to name only a few things on that list. It was put so perfectly by Bram, one of the 2 soigneurs at the race with Lotto NL “We take care of the people, the mechanics take care of the bikes”.
Here Annie takes you behind the scenes of a day in the life of a soigneur:
Once I had fought my way through the impressive crowds near the start of Stage 1 of the Tour de Yorkshire in Bridlington I found the giant Lott NL Jumbo bus perched last (or poll position for the get away) in the long line of team buses at the somewhat more peaceful end of the promenade. I was quickly introduced to Soigneurs Leo and Bram; I would be their shadow for the day.
No time to chat yet though, there was still lots to be done before the riders rolled out. Bottles were placed on the riders bikes ready for the start. Team cars were also fully stocked with bottles and food, such as OTE gels, to pass up to riders during the race should they need it.
Preparation had started long before the morning of the race. The night before, the soigneurs had made up 80 bottles for the day and prepared pieces of race food (such as small pieces of cake and museli bars) that would be available to riders before and during the race. At breakfast time the soigneurs were also on hand to provide the riders with their breakfast box (filled with familiar foods) and check each rider had all they need.
The riders were called to the Team Presentation to be greeted by the crowd which allowed just enough time for a quick bus tour from Kees the driver. It was spacious, clean and classy. You could almost feel the adrenaline in the air mixed with a strong smell of embrocation from the pre race leg massages (another job of the soigneurs). The music was playing as I checked out the seating area and the small kitchen with an all important coffee machine. To the rear of the bus a changing room with not 1 but 4 showers which the riders would use after the race.
The riders rolled out to the stage start and we quickly jumped in the 2nd team car to head straight to the feed station. This meant we could drive the first 70km ahead of the race, which would act as a stage recon so any important or danger areas could be reported back to the team car. Along the route the roads were lined with crowds waiting in anticipation for the peloton. Bram the driver occasional blasted the horn as they both waved to the excited fans outside, “its part of the job” they told me with a smile on their faces. Almost warming the crowds up for the main show, i loved it.
We arrived at the feed zone in a sleepy East Yorkshire village. Feed zones are around 1km long and in this area soigneurs can stand anywhere on the left hand side of the road. The Lotto NL soigneurs always stand towards the end of the zone as the speed is usually slower there and the riders know where to look out for them. The boot of the car turns into a little work station for the soigneurs as the finishing touches to the musettes are made.
A musette is made up for each rider. Inside they will find 2 bottles, 3 OTE energy gels & a selection of food such as Duo Bars, wrapped up halved bananas and small bits of cake. Variety is important so the riders can take what they want. The stage at 170km seemed relatively short (for the professionals) in my eyes, so why did they need a Musette? I was told on roads as narrow and twisty as they were in this race grabbing a musette was a much easier option then trying to get back to following team car.
The car also housed a very large cool box to keep all the drinks for the musettes and for the end of the race at a nice temperature. Im sure this really comes into its own at race like the Vuelta Espana but here in Yorkshire the weather was a little more ‘fresh’.
Bram and Leo then positioned themselves around 100 metres apart in the feed zone, clutching 4 musettes each. If a rider missed the first one they always had a second opportunity to grab a musette. Bram had 2 musettes left and so quickly gave them to the following team car as it passed so the riders could collect them from there if needed.
It was then back in the car to join the procession of cars making their way to the finish in Scarborough. Here we would meet the team bus again and preparation could begin for the riders arrival. Luckily we got back in good time so there was time to grab a coffee and watch a bit of the race on the 3 screens that the team bus can boast.
Large sandwiches, fruit, cereal bars and a morale boosting box of gummy sweets was set up ready for the riders return. Not to forget the OTE recovery drinks all made up ready too. This was just enough food to get that initial phase of recovery started before they would be greeted with more food to refuel at the hotel, which thankfully wasn’t too far away.
The soigneurs prepared their backpacks ready to go greet the riders at the finish, loaded with water and fizzy drinks for that much needed sugar boost. Usually it is important to meet the riders to direct them to the team bus but in Scarborough this wasn’t an issue as the buses were all in very close proximity to the finish. The main problem was fighting your way through the huge crowds.
Stage 1 didn’t go to plan for the Lotto NL boys with a few of the riders coming down with many others on a tricky descent in the second half of the stage. However the riders were not deterred by this as stage 2 saw the team execute a perfect plan to deliver Moreno Hofland (Learn more about Moreno here) at the finish to bring home the teams first win of the season.
Thanks to the team for letting Annie tag along for the day and a special mention to Bram and Leo for being so friendly and helping us gather the information.
Check out our blog page for more behind the scene interviews with the Lotto NL Jumbo Team.
Posted in: General, OTE Fuelled Athletes, Our Event Reports