A day in the life of a soigneur at the Tour de France Femmes

A day in the life of a soigneur at the Tour de France Femmes

Although the peloton is visible on your TV screens day-in-day-out throughout the summer, there is a whole network of staff at the race and back at HQ who help to keep the wheels turning. Long days and an unpredictable and ever-changing daily office, we wanted to take a deep dive into what exactly someone at the Tour de France Femmes does; so before dinner one evening we caught up with soigneur Jens Van Slycke.

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Hailing from Belgium, Jens has been with the team since 2019 and despite also working with the Men’s program and Development program, the majority of his race days are spent with our Women’s program. With a friendly and happy face, Jens explains how his day is split into different parts.

“First of all the time we get up depends on when we leave. According to that, once we get up we then make sure that the cars are as clean on the outside as inside. We make the bottles for the day with PeptoPro Max and IsoPro+, and if it’s warm then we prepare ice socks too. We then have to collect rider suitcases and make sure that they have everything they need at breakfast, and if not we’ll go and fix that.”

With the first morning duties out of the way, Jens is also a licensed bus driver so he makes sure everything is ready to go before leaving the hotel and making their journey to the start location.

“On arrival, we make sure there is enough space for all the vehicles. If the riders need to warm up before the start then we make sure to set up the trainers for them. After that, we make the nutrition boxes; which include all of the nutrition which the riders need to take with them for the early part of the stage. Then we basically just need to be there if the riders need help with anything!” 

As the riders make their way to the start through the adoring fans and the crowds dissipate from near the buses, the coach and mechanic will head off in the race car, while the other soigneurs have already left on their way to the bottle points. As the bus is the last to leave, Jens uses it as a good opportunity to do some checks.

“Once the race is on I clean the bus and make sure everything is safe to drive. I then drive the bus to the finish and go through the whole set up again; so setting up the rollers if needed, prepare their post-race food for when they arrive; make recovery drinks and ensure we have enough space for the team cars too.” 

With all of that set up, Jens normally then heads to the finish where he is on hand to help the riders across the line, give them the drinks they need, point them in the direction of the bus, or be there to assist at any podium ceremony. Yet, one of the more “unseen” so to speak roles that Jens and any finish line soigneur does is to be there and provide support for the riders.

“One of the key points at the finish, even when we don’t win the race – you kind of put your emotions to the side. You listen to the riders. You just need to be there for them. Listen to them and take care of them.” 

After then driving the bus back to the hotel, it’s a similar set of tasks as the morning such as cleaning the bus and making sure that everything is as prepared as possible for the next day, before Jens then does rider massages – putting his Bachelors in Sport and Movements to great effect.

With massages complete and riders enjoying their dinner, the staff group will then sit down for their own dinner together before holding a meeting to discuss the day’s events and what is on the agenda for the next day; before going to relax afterwards.

“Everyone has a story from the race and it is always nice to listen to those stories and share your own with your colleagues. Most of the times after dinner it is time to catch up with family, call home for example. If it’s too late then it’s straight to bed!”

It often can be a tough and demanding job but Jens thoroughly enjoys the family atmosphere and human aspect of it all.

“The thing I like the most about the job, besides the performance of the riders and the atmosphere at races, is that you’re still working with people. You get to know the person behind the rider or ‘fame’. You get to just be together and share the same passion and strive to give the best of yourself together with the whole team. For me personally, my goal is to provide everything as well as I can so that the riders can come to the start as relaxed as possible, then once the start of the race is given it is up to them to perform and if they do, then that is what we all dream about.”

Reflecting back on his time with the team so far we asked Jens what his favourite memory is with us.

I have two stand-out moments I think. The first one was at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in 2019, which was actually my first race with the team. Liane won that race solo and it still gives me goosebumps when I think about it. Then of course winning on the Champs-Élysées which is almost like the world championships for sprinters. So to be a part of that win with the team and take the first ever yellow jersey – I think that memory will be with me forever now.”

We’re sure that moment will last for a long time with everyone who was part of that success and with all of those watching along at home too. We hope you enjoyed a look behind the curtain at what exactly goes on for one of our staff members at the Tour de France Femmes; and we hope you can now appreciate the amount of hard work all of our staff do throughout the season as much as we do!