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.
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