A Day in the Life of Jenni Rae Rubio, Soigneur
About Jenni Rae Rubio One of the most demanding jobs in the world of pro-cycling (aside from the one on the bike), is that of the soigneur, whose name means “one who takes care of others”. The “swagnees”, as they are called, are responsible for everything from feeding the riders, giving them post-race massages, and transporting them and their luggage to the next hotel. They are usually the first staff members up in the morning and the last ones to bed at night. We caught up with Team Jelly Belly’s Jenni Rae Rubio to find out what a typical day at the office is like.
How did you come to be a soigneur for Team Jelly Belly?
My mom has hosted the team at the Redlands Classic for the last eight years so I sort of grew up around cycling.
What type of training does one need to do your job?
You have to a certified massage therapist. It helps to know a little about the sport of cycling, too.
What time do you wake up on a race day?
Today I got up at about 6:00.
Take us through the hours leading up to the start of the race.
I fill about 100 bottles for the riders to use throughout the day. Some get filled with Gatorade, some with water, and some with Coke. I fill the tub we keep in the back of the car with food for the riders that they pack into their jerseys before the race starts. They pack their own gels, bars, and Sport Beans into their jersey pockets to get through the early part of the race. I drive the riders to the start if it’s too far from the hotel for them to ride.
Once we’re at the start, I set up folding chairs for them to relax in before the race. I put bottles on their bikes. If it’s a cold day, I rub their legs with oil so their legs stay warm. Today’s a nice warm day so the only thing they need on their legs is sunscreen.
Hauling it to the feed zone…
Once I know the guys are taken care of, I leave the start area and drive one of the team vehicles (Lexus GX470) to the feed zone. I try to beat the other teams’ swagnees there to get the best parking space. Today I stopped on the way there to buy some energy drinks. It may take two hours for the riders to reach the feed zone. During that time I am busy packing their musettes, cloth bags with long handles to allow the rider to drape it over his shoulder until he’s ready to eat. Today each rider will grab a bag filled with a sandwich (Nutella and bananas on mini Hawaiian rolls), fig cookies, Sport Beans, gels, bars, a bottle of Gatorade and a bottle of water.
Once their bags are ready, I have a little time to catch my breath and I usually spend that time talking to the other soigneurs. When we see the lead vehicles in the race caravan come through, that’s our sign that the riders are not too far behind and that’s when we get ready to pass them their food.
How do the riders find you amidst the chaos in the feed zone?
When the riders come through, they slow down, a little, but they’re still traveling at a pretty good speed. I wear the Jelly Belly team jersey which is pretty bright, and when I see my riders coming, I hold up bags and call out their names as they approach. Knowing when to let go is critical. Let go too soon and the bag ends up on the ground, hold on too long and you could pull a rider off his bike!
Today the guys came through so quickly that only one of them grabbed his musette. If a rider misses the feed, I wait for the team car to come through and pass extra musettes, along with a bag full of bottles to the team director so that he can feed the riders from the car later on.
What happens after the caravan passes through the feed zone?
All of the soigneurs jump in their cars and we all head back to the finish as quickly as possible (that’s our race). At the finish, we set up chairs for the riders, put out towels and coolers full of drinks and food to help them recover from the race. My guys drink Gatorade Nutrition Shakes to get some quick calories in, they’ll eat just about anything they can get their hands on, but they especially like cookies and burritos.
After the race, I drive the team car to the race hotel and start setting up for their massages. The guys take showers and then come to me for their massages. They’re always on time for that!
How many massages do you do each day?
For a race like the Amgen Tour of California, there are two of us to share the work. Each of us gives four 30-45 minute massages every night.
What muscle groups are you focusing on?
I do a lot of work on their feet because their shoes are tight and they’re in them for so long during the race. I also work on their hamstrings, quads, anterior tibialis (shins), gastrocnemious and soleus (calves). I work on their backs too.
What is the benefit to the riders?
The massage helps remove lactic acid that builds up during a long day in the saddle and prepares their legs for the next day’s stage.
Do you eat dinner with the riders?
Sometimes I eat with them. I should eat with them but sometimes I am busy doing other things.
What time do you go to bed?
When I am done with my work! That can be any time between 11PM and 1 AM.