What Is A Soigneur? The Role, Training, and Typical Day of a Tour De France Soigneur

In a racing team, the cyclists get all the glory, but there are a whole host of people supporting them. Everyone has a job, from trainers, nutritionists, mechanics, and managers, and their job titles are reasonably self-explanatory.

However, there is one cycling team member whose title may not give you much of an indication of what they do: the soigneur.

The soigneur – or ‘swanny’ – is an essential cycling team member that helps with the smooth running of the team during a race.

In this article, we’ll be covering:

  • What Is A Soigneur?
  • What Do Soigneurs Do?
  • How Do You Become A Cycling Soigneur?
  • A Day In The Life Of A Soigneur

Are you ready to learn all about the swannies?

Let’s go!

What Is A Soigneur?

Back in the old days of the Tour de France, riders used to stay hydrated by filling up metal bidons. They would stop off at water fountains in villages to fill up their bidons, ensuring they had enough water to finish the race.

soigneur

These days, the task of hydrating the Tour riders falls on the soigneur. Part of their job is to fill hundreds of water bottles each day.

But these days, giving the riders enough water is just a fraction of the soigneur’s job.

They ensure that their riders sleep, eat and drink well. They also give the riders their daily massages to stay in peak performance.

Soigneur (pronounced ‘swan-yer’) is a French word that literally translates to English as “one who treats”. They are often nicknamed “swannies”, and they have to be highly organized.

What Do Soigneurs Do?

A soigneur is an assistant who makes sure the cyclist has nothing to think about or do other than race. They are essential for the cyclist to keep their head in the game, so their soigneur has an important and varied job.

A soigneur ensures their cyclist has enough food to fuel them for the race. But they also do their laundry, provide sports massages, and transport the cyclist to wherever they need to be.

There needs to be mutual respect between the riders and the soigneurs. After all, they are part of a team, so they need to trust each other.

A rider will often confide in their soigneur while on the massage table. They will see the rider at their lowest point, physically and emotionally exhausted. Riders will share intimate secrets that they never want to get out in these moments.

On top of all this, the soigneur does whatever else that needs to be done to support the cycling team. The soigneurs are on call from early in the morning to late at night to help the team out.

soigneur 2

They have a defined list of jobs, but they are often roped into ad-hoc work too. A soigneur takes care of all the cyclist’s needs. They look after everything apart from the bike, which is the mechanic’s responsibility.

A soigneur’s duties are not limited to race day. They are always thinking two days ahead to ensure they can put everything in place. For example, they will go food shopping and pretty much clear out local shops, so the riders have enough to eat during the days ahead.

Some top riders have their own soigneur, while other riders will share one. A professional cycling team can have four to six soigneurs looking after their riders, depending on the event.

How Do You Become A Cycling Soigneur?

There are no official requirements to be a soigneur. Some soigneurs don’t even have massage qualifications. However, you will be more likely to get a soigneur’s position if you are qualified, as top teams prefer therapists with certifications.

Don’t expect to become a soigneur in a top team straight away. Most soigneurs start with unpaid work for non-pro teams until they build up enough experience to move onto bigger operations.

soigneur 3

If you are interested, you may want to network at races to find out more information on how to become a cycling soigneur. You never know; you may get lucky and speak to the right person at the right time.

A Day In The Life Of A Soigneur

Before Breakfast

A soigneur’s day starts pretty early. This is so they can get everything prepared for the day of racing.

They start off with keeping the team sponsors happy by cleaning the race support cars. This is all about the corporate image and maintaining an air of professionalism.

Once the team cars are shiny, the soigneur starts to ensure that the riders have enough water for the day ahead of them. They fill up many water bottles and place them in a cooler in the support car’s trunk.

In addition to stocking up on water, they fill the trunk with salts and sugar to mix in with the water, so the rider can replace the minerals lost while racing.

During Breakfast

The soigneur will prepare and make sure their cyclists have enough to eat during breakfast. The breakfast is very calorific, as riders burn off 5,000 calories per stage during the Tour de France.

A rider’s diet is put together by their nutritionist and is tailor-made for them. The food they consume has to give the rider enough energy without giving them stomach troubles later in the race.

soigneur 4

The soigneur will give the riders their breakfast about three hours before the race starts. Their breakfast will usually consist of carbohydrate-rich foods like bread, muesli, cereal, fruit, coffee, smoothies, and orange juice. They may also have certain foods that boost their glycogen stores, such as noodles.

After Breakfast

Once the riders are ready to go, the soigneur will load up their luggage into the support car and head for the start line.

The drive to the start line from the hotel can be a long one, so the soigneur ensures that the riders have plenty of pre-race snacks during the drive. This gives them a chance to top up their carbohydrates and calories.

At the start, the soigneur will put water bottles into the bottle cages on the bikes and hand the bikes over to their riders, ready to race.

During The Race

The soigneur will drive the support car to the feeding zone in the early afternoon. Here, they will get everything ready for the riders to refuel with energy gels, bars, and cakes. They will put the snacks into a bag (known as a musette), along with a freshly filled water bottle called a bidon.

soigneur 9

As the rider passes the soigneur, they will grab the musette of goodies to consume while riding.

Head To The Finish Line

After the feeding area, the soigneur will drive to the finish line, ready to meet the riders once they have ridden the stage. They will have a drink prepared for them.

After The Race

The soigneur will wait for the rider to cross the line and hand them their drink and snacks. But they will also give the rider a jacket, so they don’t get cold as their body temperature drops.

If the rider wins, they will head to the podium together.

The soigneur will then give the rider clean clothes to change into for the press conference. After the press conference, the team will head to the hotel together, where the rider will shower.

After the rider’s shower, the soigneur will massage the rider at the hotel to prevent their legs from stiffening up after a hard day on the pedals.

soigneur 5

The goal of a soigneur’s massage is to keep the riders injury-free. But, the massage will also help with their performance. This puts the riders in the best position for staying safe and not injuring themselves when they are riding hard.

Once they have finished with the massage, they will go for dinner. Riders will typically eat a salad, soup, or juice as a starter to boost nutrients in their system.

Their main course will generally be meat or fish with carbohydrate-rich foods. They might have homemade cakes for dessert, along with fruit and yogurt.

After Dinner

Unfortunately, the soigneur can’t just relax with a post-dinner beer in the hotel bar. After dinner, they wash the rider’s cycling clothes. This is especially important when the race stages take place during bad weather.

The soigneur’s day usually finishes between 11 pm and midnight, when they can finally go to bed!

What Is A Soigneur? – Answered!

soigneur 8

As you can see, a soigneur is someone who supports the riders during a race day. Their days are long, and their nights are short, but they are essential for the success of the team.

You may watch the Tour de France on TV and see swannies doing their duties. It may look reasonably glamorous, visiting some of the most picturesque spots in France, especially the Alps.

But, the life of a soigneur during a race is extremely tough. They are up first thing in the morning and are the last to bed every day.

Therefore, a soigneur is not just a helper. They can significantly affect the rider’s race performance and life.

Enjoyed this article? Check out more of our blogs below!

Photo of author
One of BikeTips' regular content creators, Tom lives in the French Alps. When he isn't writing, he can be found charging downhill on a mountain bike or snowboard. Tom's other passion is fitness, which goes a long way to help him make the most of the Alpine lifestyle.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.