Published: 22 June 2012
Words: Simon Powers
Last week: Lead Mechanic Ernie Feargrieve
We are all familiar with many of the riders and coaches responsible for the great performances of the Great Britain Cycling Team. But in the lead up to this summer’s Games, we’re taking the opportunity to have a look at some of the staff from the Great Britain Cycling team who tend to go unnoticed but without whom, the team could not function.
Above: An eye for detail - Luc ensuring nothing goes unnoticed.
From fixing pipes in hospitals, to meeting the Queen on his return from the Beijing Olympics, Luc de Wilde’s progression from plumber to Belgian cycling champion and finally soigneur for the Great Britain Cycling Team has, in his own words been “quite something.”
Now, working closely with fellow soigneur Hanlie Fouche, looking after the requirements of some of the world’s top names across many disciplines of the sport, de Wilde’s typical day reveals a multitude of tasks all designed to minimise any disruptions that may be caused to the rider by the constant travelling can cause to riders.
“It’s the little things that make the difference;” Luc summarises, “they all have individual habits and requests. It’s all about trying to make the transition from training at home to being abroad as smooth as possible.”
With the sheer number of international appearances and training camps that riders attend, a daily schedule of sorts has developed, keeping a team of carers including de Wilde plenty busy.
“The first job of a soigneur is to be the first one up and make sure that the breakfast box is fully stocked. Most hotels are pretty good but some riders have specific requests for things that hotels don’t have so, in that case, we would bring our own. Then if we are at a training camp, for example, we need to make sure all the drinks bottles are ready as well as some food during training such as a sandwich or rice cakes etc.
“When they pull away for the training ride, it doesn’t stop there. There’s all the washing to do as well as preparing a good lunch for them to enjoy on their return from a hard morning’s training.
“In the afternoon, I am responsible for massaging the riders. After this, we unload the team car and clean all the bottles and get them ready to be used next day. Then it’s on to preparing dinner for all the guys after a hard day in the saddle. As well as having plenty of food on the table, I also need to make sure that there are anti-microbial hand gels freely available as hygiene is important as any sicknesses can interfere with a rider’s training.”
Despite current focus being solely on London 2012, de Wilde still has strong memories of his first Olympic experience in Beijing
“It was a fantastic experience because I still felt like the little plumber from Belgium. It was such a great result for our team, even if we didn’t realise the scale of it at that time because of the Olympic bubble that you find yourselves in at Games time. Even though you have access to papers and television, you don’t get the time to absorb any of it. It’s not until you get home that you begin to realise what has been achieved. I even went to Buckingham Palace on my return and met the Queen. I’ve never even seen the Belgian King so that’s really quite something.”
After working at the British road race championships, Luc will again begin preparation for the biggest event of the year with various camps surrounding the Olympics before finally making his way to the Olympic Road Race on 27 July in London.
“I usually work in teams of two so will work alongside my colleague Hanlie Fouche for the Road and Track events. I’m not sure about BMX and Mountain Bike yet but I could be potentially working at all four.
“In my job you get to see so much of the world and so much good cycling. I work with some of the best riders in the world, when it comes to job satisfaction, you can’t ask for anymore than that really.”