Astana team soigneur Alejandro Vazquez has been looking after pro riders since before many of his current riders were born.
Meet Alejandro Vazquez, soigneur for team Astana. Previously, Vazquez has been a staffer for the Kelme, U.S. Postal Service and Saeco pro teams. He has the job down to a science.
For the uninitiated, a soigneur is the person who assists riders during a race. They’re charged with preparing food, handing out water bottles and mussette bags in the feed zone, doing the team laundry, and massaging racers after the stage. It’s a busy job.
“Massage is my specialty,” Vazquez said. “I give massage to everybody. Riders, team directors, cooks, and their grandmas, sisters and brothers.”
On Friday’s 19th stage, Vazquez was up at 6 a.m., preparing food for the Tour’s longest day in the Alps. He oversees four other soigneurs, who also do a wide range of tasks, from driving the bus or the team cars, to even working on bicycles when the team mechanics need a little extra help.
At the team’s hotel, Vazquez filled bottles with water and electrolyte mix and arranged nutrition into the mussette bags — two bars, two gels, one water bottle, one mix bottle and one miniature can of Coca-Cola per bag. Two bags per rider.
“If you don’t put the Coke in the bag, the riders always ask,” Vazquez said. “On a hard day it is something they look forward to.”
Vazquez and his crew then arranged team bikes outside the tent, and erected barricades to keep fans and journalists at bay. Just before the race departed, he drove out of the starting city of Bourg-D’Oisans and headed for the slopes of the Glandon. There he dropped off one soigneur, and then took a shortcut to the feed zone at La Bathie to drop another staff person.
Over the years, Vazquez has done soigneur duty for a handful of star cyclists, including Alexander Vinokourov of Kazakhstan and Vincenzo Nibali of Spain. The two men, he said, both had a sweet tooth during races.
“[Vinokourov] was always asking for honey waffles. Or these special cakes from Kazakhstan — they’re really delicious cakes,” he said. “Vincenzo is like all Italians. He wants a panini with Nutella inside.”
At the finishing city of Le Grand-Bornand, Vazquez hurriedly threw cans of sparkling water and soda into a cooler and ran to the finish line as the riders got closer. His team’s top GC rider Jakob Fuglsang finished alongside the other top-10 riders, and Vazquez was there to greet him, helping Fuglsang move past fans and reporters back to the team bus. He cared for the other riders as they trickled in across the line, and then packed up the team’s oversized van to drive to the following day’s stage in Annecy.
Vazquez does this between 180 and 200 days a year, every year. And he’s done it since 1990. He said he gets a few days off between races to return to his home in Galicia, Spain, to see his wife and kids.
“They want massages too,” he said, laughing. “Unfortunately.”