A Day In The Life of A Tour Podium Hostess

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Magalie Thierry Simon Gerrans

Meet Magalie Thierry, Tour de France “podium girl”, cycling fan and doctorate student. It’s a visible job and not without controversy this year thanks to Peter Sagan.

If you think the job is just about smiling once every day on the podium at 5.30pm, think twice. There are early starts and a lot of logistics to manage, all whilst appearing calm and welcoming.

Here’s a short “day in the life” explanation of the daily routine and tasks to complete as well as a quick Q&A about the role.

6.00am: wake up but the time depends on the stage and how far we’re staying from the village départ

7.00-7.30am: time to leave the hotel

8.00-8.30am: arrival in the village départ which is always fun and in a good mood. There’s always a crazy atmosphere! I go to the Vittel stand with my colleague to get ready, here drinks, snacks, fruit and gifts are given out.

9.00am: the village opens and the guests and VIPs arrive, we get our photographs taken with them. Me and my colleague for the day will arrange the cars and transport, we have find out where the VIPs have parked their cars.

Midday: just before the race starts we’ll take guests cars and drive using the hors course route, the quickest route from the stage start to the finish. Meanwhil the guest is being driven in a Tour VIP car to see the race. We’ll take the guest’s car as close to the VIP bus at the finish as possible. As it happens it’s a big deal to drive non-accredited vehicles everyday, it helps to know the people in charge of security at the Tour.

3.00pm: arrival at the finish, time to go to the Vittel ravitaillement truck just after the finish line. It’s our office to prepare for the podium ceremony. We’ll print out the photos taken in the morning so that our guests go home with small souvenir.

4.00pm: we’ve got about an hour to eat and then get ready for the podium. We’ll change labels, swapping the sporty Vittel outfits for the podium costumes of Powerbar.

5.15pm: the podium for a few seconds of airtime.

5.20pm: back to the VIP zone to collect our guests and take them to their cars where we parked them… and that’s the job done. Time to head for the hotel.

8.00pm: Arrival in the hotel. But it can be later, much later if there’s a big transfer or a mountain stage.

Tour de France podium

The view from the podium
- I know you like the sport, is it possible for you to watch the race and keep up with the news?
It’s not always easy but it’s true I never want to miss out. I try to use Twitter to keep up, and at the finish line we have a small TV to watch the end of the stage.

- The Tour looks like a big party, can you enjoy it or is it work for three weeks?
The Tour is especially long and tiring, you have to save energy and not burn up your batteries in the first week. Sure it’s a workplace but there’s a kind of mania unique to the event, a magic ambiance where people work closely together. It’s important to keep the fun side in mind as finally this is what forges the real team spirit!

- In cycling the podium of the Tour de France can be the high point of a rider’s career. What does the Tour represent in the career of a hostess?
It’s true that in the same way for the riders it’s the high point in the career of a hôtesse to be on the podium of the Tour, and even more so when you’re passionate about cycling!

– You’re doing a doctorate. Is it easy to juggle work and study with the travelling stage races?
I’ll admit it’s not straightforward, it’s even very difficult to hide your double-life from your colleagues. For my part, I’m not a student but doing a doctorate in biology employed in a nutritional research laboratory and I use my paid leave to do the one day classics run by ASO and the Tour. It lets me get rid of all the stress of the PhD, but not having any rest days the passion for cycling wins over reason!

- Any other stories to tell?
Ah, plenty! Sometimes I’ve got my head in the clouds which has got me nicknamed la bricole (INRNG: hard to translate, think “mix up or repair”) by colleagues at ASO. If I had to mention one of the worst “bricoles” it would be during one of the stages on the Tour last year. I climbed onto the podium having forgotten to take off my accreditation and the sheet with all the phone numbers of the team. The result, the big white display hanging around my neck on live TV.

Thanks to Magalie for the interview, that’s her on the left of the image at the top and on the right of the second image. You can see her on TV and follow on Twitter as @MagalieTHIERRY

 

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{ 43 comments }

Richard EASTHAM July 2, 2013 at 5:56 pm

Did you ask Magalie about whether or not she felt the role was dated? Does it objectify women at all? You hinted at these issues in the introduction to the piece (i.e. the Sagan podium incident this spring) but no follow up in the interview itself. I am curious what Magalie might have to add to the debate.

The Inner Ring July 2, 2013 at 6:09 pm

No, 98% of the interview is written-up above.

For what it’s worth I thought about raising these issues. But I know she’s really into cycling and just happy to be part of the race rather than a mere agency model. An extra concern was that if she had any critical views then saying them out aloud in July could easily taken the wrong way and cause embarrassment for her employers.

Richard EASTHAM July 2, 2013 at 6:29 pm

Thanks for the reply and the explanation regarding that particular issue. Seems fair enough to not ask on this occasion, especially if it would put her on the spot with regards to her employers while on duty. I think the piece was another great insight to the behind the scenes aspects of the sport. Much appreciated.

The Inner Ring July 2, 2013 at 6:32 pm

I’ve got another piece under gestation about podium ceremonies, machismo, discrimination and more in the sport but it’s not a topic you can type up in 10 minutes.

Paul July 2, 2013 at 6:15 pm

Nice read. By the sounds of it she is spending more time driving cars for vips than meeting n’ greeting them.

CJ July 2, 2013 at 6:27 pm

It sounds more like a hobby than a job, how do they get into this work?

The Inner Ring July 2, 2013 at 7:08 pm

It’s a job for all but not always a career. Those making a full-time living will do work on other events. Some holding castings, for example combativity prize Brandt did it via Facebook, others use agencies.

Podium ceremonies are everywhere, even a small race in France will have one and often the local “Miss” on hand, usually with a sash saying Miss Normandie or Miss Languedoc etc. As Magalie suggests, you can start here and work upwards, it’s a paid job usually from the start.

Tad Cheswick July 4, 2013 at 1:52 am

The press person for the BMC Racing Team is a former podium hostess (and, apparently, a swimsuit model): http://tinyurl.com/keb4x4r

Michael July 2, 2013 at 8:19 pm

Bricole has a number of shades of meaning, including to do your own repair job. When professionals come to your house and look at any such work, they invariably shake their heads at the “bricoles” they have to put right. I think the word is being used here in this sense, a botched job.

TourDeUtah July 2, 2013 at 8:26 pm

I had a chance to meet the Tour of Utah gals last summer. They said they were doing it to earn money while on summer break from school. They enjoyed the Tour and meeting lots of people who enjoyed cycling.

Jon July 2, 2013 at 10:07 pm

Interesting article. Thank you.
Their working day is a lot longer than I would have anticipated.

bigwagon July 2, 2013 at 10:09 pm

I have a friend who was a podium and umbrella girl at motorcycle and bike events (MotoGP races in the US and a Tour of California podium girl the last two years). It’s a fulltime job working for an agency that provides the service to promoters of events, but didn’t pay very well. She finally quit and got a “real” job in marketing but still did the ATOC this year.

Anonymous July 2, 2013 at 10:53 pm

Damn you, INRNG, you’ve undermined my bigoted prejudices yet again. Good luck to Magalie in her studies. Hope she can find time to enjoy the next few stages amidst her impressively busy schedule.

MT July 2, 2013 at 10:54 pm

Great cameo piece.

Is there competition for the final podium in Paris I wonder…

Anonymous July 3, 2013 at 11:41 am

Yes, the cyclist with the lowest combined time from all of the race stages wins the whole event. ;-)

Anonymous July 2, 2013 at 11:49 pm

You can always tell the Tour Podium girls have more about them than just bimbo’s looking smiley. As long as I can remember they always look smart in more than one way. Long may it continue.

ian July 3, 2013 at 9:08 am

Thanks as always for the insight into the weird and mysterious world of pro cycling. I must admit that I personally have real problems with the whole podium girl part of cycling and cringe every time I see the presentations on TV. I don’t think it has any place in the sport and the presentations should be conducted with local kids or cycling clubs. As a father this sends a terrible message to my kids – girls (no matter how bright) are there to look pretty while men get on and ride the bikes and have the glory. Terrible. This is not a slight on people Magalie but the sooner the sport ditches this outmoded charade the better for me but maybe I’m alone in this and other people like it a la Sagan ?

Anonymous July 3, 2013 at 10:20 am

I could not agree LESS with what you said, there are far more serious issues involving the whole female species such as the vile and seemingly uncontrollable world of online pornography. This needs to be tackled head on right now. The use of Podium women, especially in the Tour has always brought a pleasant and somewhat classy end to the days event and I have never thought of it as cringe worthy.

Anon July 3, 2013 at 12:08 pm

But does one have to prevent any focus on the other? It could be argued that by allowing women to be seen as decorative (i.e. “podium girls”) it establishes an acceptance that women can be objectified, laying foundations for a culture where more serious issue flourish.

Anyhow, rant over, back to the bikes!

L_Islandais July 3, 2013 at 1:07 pm

I agree whole-heartedly with ian. There was a welcome change in this tradition in a Belgian classic last year when the organisers responded to bad press following a poster with a nude photo of a young woman, maybe someone can unearth it?
When I daydream about winning a race, I often experience wanting to boycott the podium ceremony because of the whole objectification of women in it.

One note to INRNG for the piece-in-making: I read the other day an article on the difference of “traditional” and French feminism. According to it, French feminists rally for the right for equal pay and legal rights as well as the right to be seductive and stereotypically feminin. Given the role of a hostess in TdF, the cultural difference might be a big issue here.

This doesn’t change the fact that I am bringing my daughter up to be a racer, rather than a trophy.

The article is unfortunately behind a paywall now: http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/139527/david-a-bell/liberte-egalite-but-not-homosexualite

Stuart July 3, 2013 at 11:51 am

I agree with you about it being cringe making. A moment of celebration is an important thing, but there are surely more imaginative ways of doing it rather than buying into, and reinforcing, such crude gender stereotypes.

Necko July 3, 2013 at 12:45 pm

I agree with all this. In some ways there could not have been a worse time for INRNG to run this article, however insightful and interesting it happens to be. The most important race of the women’s calender, the Giro Rosa is currently running yet instead of previewing or even mentioning this he focuses on the women playing a minor and completely superfluous role in men’s racing.

Anonymous July 3, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Or, he wrote a very interesting color piece during the Tour about a woman whose is about to get her Doctorate in biology, works in a nutritional research lab and, as a road racing enthusiast, spends her holiday time as a podium girl. Leave it to this blog to find the time to give us a fun, interesting side story in addition to thoughtful race coverage.

Greg July 4, 2013 at 12:20 am

Freedom of choice is a beautiful thing, is it not? The woman who work as podium girls, grid girls, etc do so out of free choice. If this article were about “Slave Women Sold into Duty as Podium Girl at Age 12″ then you might have an argument. I could make a stronger argument for the damage done by Football Dads (or in my country Soccer Moms) and parents who push their children to ‘achieve’ or ‘succeed’ in various sports and activities with little to no regard for the what their child wants to achieve. Although we may all pretend otherwise, sports exist solely for the purpose of having fun. The fact that pro sports are able to exist is nothing more than figuring out how to get someone else to pay for your fun. Instead of trying to make decisions for other people, please just concentrate on your own fun.

D'oh July 3, 2013 at 9:18 am

I can’t see team orders allowing Impey to take the yellow jersey off Gerrans, even if Gerrans asked him to. Won’t happen.

Gerro will be attacked no doubt, but he’ll get over those hills ok, he’ll keep his form for a couple more days and never underestimate the size of his ticker. It’s not the size of the dog in the fight…

Stuey O, Alba, etc. will support him well and he gets it another day, that’s my pick.

Bundle July 3, 2013 at 11:42 am

Nice read.
Interesting, slightly surprising, to find no reference whatsoever, in the article, or in the comments, to buttocks. Even more surprising that no asks for her number and relationship status. :)
As for the “objectification” issue, I disagree with those trying to “mainstream a gender perspective”. Being the valuable smiley presence that enhances the glory of the victor is a good thing to be. The possibility of being that is a plus of womanhood that doesn’t take away any possibility of being other good things.

The Inner Ring July 3, 2013 at 11:57 am

For what it’s worth combativity prize sponsor Brandt opened their casting to people and one man applied. They reviewed it but ASO said no. This and more about the selection process in a French article:
http://www.20minutes.fr/sport/1148173-20130501-cgfdgf

Interestingly one of the questions asked is “can you change a wheel if you puncture” which again shows the importance of getting a guest’s car to the stage finish.

Cilmeri July 3, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Fascinating piece, thanks. I always presumed that they were 2 local women and different at each stage, but chosen for 5 minutes of local fame and nothing else. It’s great to see that there is a job involved, and it’s a days work. Nevertheless I agree with the general comments about this being outmoded – surely ASO can employ people to drive the cars from start to end, and as suggested have local kids or cycling groups to stand on the podium. Given that virtually no-one knows the background and the other work done, podium girls do give the impression that standing and looking pretty is a goal in life.

INRNG – I really value this blog and the information in it, and appreciate that you’re not out to be a hard-hitting journalist – however I think a question about Sagan and the role from that point of view would’ve been pertinent and valuable. It should’ve been her choice not yours whether to embarrass the employers. Nevertheless as stated above I appreciated the article, so it’s a minor quibble.

Beth Leasure-Hudson July 3, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Thanks for another well-written, thoughtful piece. Finally, a flattering view of this role. I sometimes wonder if the feminists who disagree with this role are just envious of beauty as a source of income and viable work, not to mention its other perks, which do not necessarily cancel out having brains.

PT July 3, 2013 at 2:12 pm

Do men do the same role for women’s races?

Lovinlife July 3, 2013 at 2:45 pm

I personally like my “Podium Girls” in 1st – 2nd and 3 place.

Mark Cavernclub - the Scouse Sprinter July 3, 2013 at 4:33 pm

Well, it’s either the girls or Hainault in a dress giving you a peck on the cheek! That’s enough to make you stab out your mind’s eye.

It’ll be Jonny Clay doing the VIP drive arounds at Otley Races tonight – maybe he could be the first Podium Bloke on the Tour of Britain.

Edo July 3, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Pretty soon, some people will be complaining about how debasing it is for men to be attracted to women – or even to look at a woman. Grow up people and stop trying to suck the life out of everything.

Greg July 3, 2013 at 7:17 pm

Thank you, I agree.

jaas July 3, 2013 at 9:51 pm

that occurs is some countries.

Mark Evans July 3, 2013 at 10:00 pm

This is a pretty fluff piece. Ohhhh we have been told one of the podium girls we objectify has got brains but no real job and is doing this. After the Sagan reality check we can interview, not ask any of the real questions and that will make everyone feel better.
You don’t need to ask her what she thinks of the job, she is doing it !

Look at the inner ring website, how many pieces does it have on women’s road cycling. It is a soft tool of continued repression and misogyny.

Keep the podium girls. They describe this sport exactly.

Anonymous July 3, 2013 at 11:46 pm

The Podium “girls” are actually women, you know adults and it may even be said that they took their OWN decision to do this work over the summer months. It will be a very sad day indeed if they were removed and in their place some fat Mayor/ess, local dignitory or whoever. The PC prophets should take a look on the MotoGP website, their is a whole section dedicated to these “babes” Notice how the attire is a little more revealing too. Do Gooders, The PC Brigade, Liberal limp wristed twits all make me sick. If you want to do something useful get to grips with the truly vile filth that a few clicks of a mouse can bring up.

Alan July 3, 2013 at 11:51 pm

Are you aware he BBC have nicked your article?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-23159766

Anquetil's Mother July 8, 2013 at 7:12 am

Ok, here’s what I’ve boiled this matter down to. The real problem with the podium girls is this: the photo. It’s always the stupid photo of two girls kissing the same delighted winner at the same time. Up until that point, I, as a woman, really have no issue with two lovely women presenting trophies and the de riguer euro greeting cheek kisses to the stage winner. But the double kiss paused for the cameras is just weird. It’s awkward and it is, to me, the very moment that the podium ladies become objectified. So just leave that last part out, eh?

daviec July 15, 2013 at 6:33 pm

I think it’s those people that assume they can speak for the podium girls that are out of order. Nobody is forcing them to do it, it appears form the number of applications, that it is a desirable job. Would you prefer that they were out of work, or in a minimum wage job that they hate? Just so that you aren’t offended by them being objectified. Are you absolutely sure that they are objectified? By everyone watching? I doubt it. Maybe you should give those women, and the people who enjoy the presentations as they are, a bit more credit.

Perpetu-Elle July 20, 2013 at 7:02 am

Actually, my husband and I have discussed the hardships for the podium girls for years. I mean, think about it – if the rider is Belgian or Dutch, you have to remember that it’s kiss, kiss, kiss. Whereas French riders are only kiss, kiss, and the Americans are clueless and usually forget the second kiss and have to be roped in by the podium girl. My big complaint this year is that there are girls in the 2013 Tour who are coming back from last year – two of the yellow jersey girls, for sure. I’m mean, honestly, recycling podium girls – this is worse than doping scandals!!!!!!

Kane July 21, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Anyone know the name of the other podium girl in these photos? Great article.

The Inner Ring July 21, 2013 at 8:38 pm

Elsa Boirie

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