Faces of Le Tour: part two

by Matt de Neef


There’s far more to the Tour than just 200 cyclists making their way around France. There are literally thousands of people that work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure everything runs smoothly for the biggest annual sporting event in the world.

And that’s not to mention the millions of fans that watch the race by the roadside every year.

Throughout this year’s race we’ve been meeting some of the people that bring life to the Tour de France, from the hard workers that make the race happen, to the multitude of supporters that make the Tour the great spectacle it is.

Here then is part two of Faces of Le Tour. If you missed part one, you can find it here.

Maxime Ruphy – Mavic neutral service mechanic

Mavic is responsible for neutral service at the Tour de France and indeed at all of ASO’s races throughout the year. A team of eight is spread between three cars and a moto in the Tour — two cars and a moto at the front of the peloton to service breakaways, and one car to service the peloton. We caught up with mechanic Maxime in the start village on stage 14.

If you’d like to read more about the job of neutral service, check out these articles.

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I do a bit of everything — sometimes I’m driving, sometimes I’m the mechanic, or “jumper”. Sometimes I’m on the moto as well, but not driving it. I’ve been working for Mavic for two years; it’s my second Tour de France. Mavic is actually from my area — I live in the Alps and Mavic is based in Annecy.

It’s a full-time job. We start in February with the Tour of Qatar and Oman and we finish with Paris-Tours in October and we take time off during winter.

I love cycling and I was a racer before. They like to get racers in the Mavic team because it’s easier to know how the race will work. I actually raced in Australia — I was racing for the Pensar-Hawk Racing Team in the National Road Series three years ago. I was in Brisbane and I loved it. I want to go back.

My favourite memory from the Tour de France so far is probably the second stage of this year’s race. I was on the moto as a mechanic and I changed the wheel for Peter Sagan in the last 20km and he got second. I was pretty happy with that!

John “Iffy” Trevorrow – Journalist and Australian race director

We bumped into Australian cycling legend John Trevorrow at the start of stage 14. For those that aren’t familiar with John’s story, he won the national road title three years in a row (1978-80), he won the Herald Sun Tour three times, he raced against Eddy Merckx and much more.

John was in a rush when we caught him and he didn’t have time to chat, but he did have time to let us take a quick photo and tell us what he’s up to at this year’s Tour.

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I work for the Geelong Addy, I’m writing some blogs for Orica-GreenEdge and I cart Gerry Ryan’s VIP’s around.

He’s not usually a man of so few words!

Marion Margot – Tour Information Guide

If you wander around the event village at the start of each Tour de France stage, you’ll see a handful of people walking around with big yellow balls hovering above their heads. We caught up with one such person near the start of the second week of racing.

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I’m in a team of six people and we are the information guides. People ask us questions — What time can we see the depart? Where is the village? We answer the questions and we give them a brochure with planning information for the day.

I used to ride a bike when I was young, with my parents, but not much any more. I don’t watch the Tour de France on TV either. But my brother did this job at Le Tour last year and he told me it was amazing. So I sent in a CV.

It’s … wow. Everybody is nice that I’ve talked to. It’s very cool.

The Jackson family – Australian cycling fans

Visit the Tour de France and you’ll notice there’s no shortage of Australian flags around the place. We saw one such flag at the start of a stage earlier this week, belonging to the Jackson family from Brunswick in Melbourne.

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We’d just planned to be on holiday in France in July and so we’ve been at two stages this week and today’s the third. We’re staying nearby, about an hour-and-a-half away, so we’re just trying to make the most of the opportunity to see the racing. We normally watch it on TV at home but to be here and see it is great.

We go and watch bike races in Melbourne but nothing like this — this is just amazing. You’re never alone — it doesn’t matter if you’re out on the road, you think “there’ll be no one else here; it will just be us” but there’s always loads of people.

We’re supporting Richie Porte because he’s an Aussie and he’s doing really well. “Richie Porte, you’re our sort” — it kind of rhymed and made a nice poster! We did another one for GreenEdge, it just said “Pedal GreenEdge!” We thought we’d bring Richie’s today because we think they spotted it yesterday as they rode past and we were hoping that they might spot it again and come and sign it.

We got a whole bag and two bottles yesterday from Bora. Thy guy who threw it only took one thing out and then just threw the rest of it!

David Ranson – IAM Cycling filmmaker

In recent years, many teams have embraced video as a way of taking their fans behind the scenes and telling stories about their riders. IAM Cycling is among those teams and the team’s filmmaker, David Ranson, is at the Tour de France this year. We caught up with him in the first week of racing.

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If you want to watch the race you watch it on TV – the stuff the you don’t see is the amount of people behind the scenes, working for these guys. The riders might spend five, six, seven hours on a bike but some of the staff are going to midnight, one, two in the morning to get these guys on the bike.

This is my first time at the Tour de France. So far it’s been brilliant. I’ve done a lot of stage races this year but this is just … the scale of everything here: the organisation, the people at every stage so far has been crazy.

I’m most looking forward to the mountains. Getting out there and filming, capturing some nice early-morning sunrise shots. My job is as much filming beautiful things as it is capturing beautiful things in the team.

Stephanie, Anna and Leslie – Colombian cycling fans

Few countries seem to have cycling fans as passionate as Colombia. At stage starts, finishes and on the roads in between, you’ll often see Colombians waving their yellow blue and red flags. We caught up with Stephanie, Anna and Leslie in the first week of racing.

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We are living in France but we’re originally from Colombia. We have always been fans since we were very small — our parents and grandparents too — everyone loves cycling in Columbia. Cycling in our culture is very important.

Everyone loves Nairo Quintana all over Colombia, not just in the region he’s from. He is on TV and in the papers and in advertisements. He and all those Colombian guys are very important for the sport — we are so proud of them.

Jamie Barlow – Rider agent at Trinity Sports Management

The Tour de France isn’t just the biggest bike race of the year, it’s a time when riders and their agents are often involved in negotiations about the following year’s contracts. Jamie Barlow is a rider agent and, along with his colleague Andrew McQuaid, he looks after the likes of Richie Porte, Stephen Cummings and Dan Martin.

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It’s the biggest race of the year, all the teams are here, all the managers, the riders. So it’s a case of a quick chat to everybody, stay out the way of the riders, just meet them for a coffee or a tea in the evening and let them rant about the day or let them fill you in on the stories. It’s a case of all the top teams in the world are here. In terms of networking and meeting it’s really easy.

Some meetings we need to keep quiet — it’s a small world and there is always a rumour mill going around.

My background in the sport is like many here. I raced as a junior but I was never good enough to make a career out of it and I guess the bug never leaves. I wanted to be involved in it in some way and I grew up with Andrew [McQuaid] back in Ireland and it kinda came from that. It doesn’t really feel like work you know? We are at the start of the Tour de France and its 30 degrees — it’s great.

I’ve got so many great Tour memories, I’ve followed it since I was 15 or 16 and every year or every second year I like to see it in the mountains. That’s the special part for me — Irish Corner (on Alpe d’Huez) is good but Dutch Corner is incredible.

The feature image shows the mascot of French financial services company LCL, sponsor of the Tour’s yellow jersey since 2007. The company was formerly known as Crédit Lyonnais and sponsored the maillot jaune under that name from 1987.

 

Dave Everett contributed to this article.

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