Let’s pick this up mid-stride: our soigneur, Delphine Leray, is currently at the Olympics as part of Canada’s cycling team. So as I type and you read… Delphine is in Rio.
Obviously many decision makers in cycling think Delphine is a very good soigneur but I’m going to throw this out there: Delphine is better than any of us know. It’s the curse of a soigneur whose efficiency consistently takes care of more than each individual on the team is aware.
Take note: good soigneurs are always better at their job than you know.
For those wondering what a soigneur does, there are now many “day in the life” articles and videos readily available online. Most do a great job depicting soigneurs prepping food and bottles for riders and staff; preparing the vehicles with coolers, race nutrition, and ice socks if needed; tending to pre-race needs including last-minute taping. Some videos show tons of driving (to feed zones, finish lines, service courses, between races…). More detailed articles describe soigneurs meeting riders at the finish line with post-race nutrition, towels, and offering directions to tents, chairs, vehicles. Soigneurs also manage riders for podium ceremonies and anti-doping controls. They are capable of first aid and are often certified first responders. Most have training in therapeutic taping; a variety of massage techniques and athletic therapies. They communicate with directors regarding any health issues riders are experiencing, and can usually do so in more than one language. And they also do laundry and grocery shop while prepping again for the next day. Delphine is our Head Soigneur, so she also tracks the van’s mileage and the inventory of our Giordana clothing (kit and casual), Doc’s Skincare creams and oils, plus Clif nutrition supplies–dialoguing directly with suppliers. And yes, she does more than what’s listed here.
The heart of a soigneur’s job, however, is ethical. The way that Delphine works helped me understand this better. I mean by definition the sum of a soigneur’s work is ultimately to care for others. Let’s not go all maternal gaga googoo here. Soigneurs have established fields of knowledge and skill sets related to the tasks listed above. The point is that everything a soigneur does is directed towards caring for riders so that they can perform optimally on the day. Mechanics are responsible for maintaining bikes, equipment and vehicles. Good soigneurs vigilantly maintain the conditions, or freedom, for riders to race well. They are consistently vigilant at the ground level of racing. If any of you believe that racing a bike has to do in part with caring properly for your body so that you can execute often physically arduous tasks and surpass limits, you should note the unsung role of soigneurs in the history of cycling’s greatest achievements.
I think about it this way: Silber Pro Cycling is wrapping up an incredible 2016 at the Tour of Alberta (Sept 1-5). We have been fortunate to have some of the best soigneurs in North America work with us during the year. Most recently, Gabriella Williams and Lani Galyer provided “next level” care for the riders at the Tour of Utah as they won a stage and wore 5 out of 6 available jerseys. Throughout the season, we’ve had so many wins and breakthrough performances… and Delphine Leray is our Head Soigneur. She’s played a key part in establishing the conditions for success for one of the best seasons in Canadian cycling history and now she’s with the Canadian team at Rio. With Delphine Leray, there’s a lot to care about.