The Domestique Partner is an anonymous columnist who is writing about the experience of being a pro cyclist’s better half. Follow along this season to learn about what it’s like to live on the other side of the barriers
Paris: Monday morning, July 25.
WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED LAST NIGHT?
Oh Paris, the one day of the year filled with glitz and glamour.
I travel with a few friends. Different teams, so we when arrive, we part ways. Sometimes in Paris it’s as much of an adventure to collect the VIP pass as the rest of the day can be. The Tour is fantastic with security, and on the final day, getting anywhere NEAR a team is next to impossible without a pass. So I head off to meet the soigneur on hotel duty to pick up my pass there. Not exactly en route. But could be much worse. By 4 p.m. we arrive on the course, and slowly meander to our grandstand seats, ticketed by the team. We make polite small talk with each other — some of the girls I’ve never even met before. But on this day, we are one unit. Anyway, this part of the day is pretty boring. It’s not even like, real bike racing. No one cares except for the top sprinters, and everyone else is totally checked out. Give me a local crit race any day over this parade.
The real juice is what happens after the race. So here’s a quick run-down, or what I remember of it. It’s gotten a bit trickier in the last few years since they have made the finish later, but we still manage.
First up: finish the race. We meet at team busses in Place de Concorde. Jubilation, celebration. But, the cameras are still on, so it’s pretty tame. We ladies are finally allowed on the team bus; the staff finally acknowledges us as more than just an annoyance.
Next: back to the massive hotel to shower and change. I’ve got to give props to that hotel for maintaining water pressure and hot water for the amount of sweaty athletes simultaneously draining their system. And we are all in a rush, so virtual chaos for the next hour.
Without much time to spare, we are put on a shuttle bus and sent off to a dinner. Over the years this has varied and can include a party on a boat, a night at the Embassy, Caviar, champagne, the works. It’s organized by each team, not the race. So we put on our Sunday best and off we go. To be honest, this part is sort of the pre-game (like drinking at home before going to the bar). It’s pretty damn boring. And the last thing the riders want to do is spend another two hours with the staff and teammates they have been with every single moment for a month. There are speeches. There are congratulations. My thought: A speech is the perfect length if it lasts the same amount of time it takes me to neck the glass of fizz.
At the first chance we can, we slip out from the event. (The time it was on a boat that was pretty tough.) The real night begins. Sometime (probably around midnight from what I can remember) we pile into some taxis — if the taxi driver chooses to take us — to one of two infamous, unnamed Parisian discotheques. If you are one of the first ones there, fear not. The Dutch soigneurs will arrive soon and surpass your inebriation faster than you have ever seen them do a load of laundry.
So in this sub-cavernous nightclub we see the things we cannot unsee, and we drink to hopefully forget they ever happened. And, let’s just say 68kg cyclists cannot hold their alcohol. In this seedy slice of Parisian voyeurism, I’ve seen no less than three taxis vomited in, respected team managers do body shots, a few dozen instances of inappropriate nudity, and at least one person punched in the face.
Sunday night was a blur, as it always is — nothing too eventful that I remember. But even if I did, maybe that’s my secret. Although as we were heading out, I did see a WAG break her stiletto heel and try to use kinesiotape to put it back together … Resourceful at least. Thought cobbles were bad on the bike? Try them in four-inch spikes.
We wake up in a haze the next morning, vague memories of dancing, sweating, late night kebabs (maybe early morning ones), and immediately face everyone else who we are hiding from, as we are all in the same hotel. It’s like the worst walk of shame ever. “Oh hi, did I lick tequila out of your belly button last night? Apologies, just having my croissant now, carry on.” Quick, to the taxi, and off to the airport, at least we have some privacy there. Until of course, we get to the airport and see everyone is on the same flight back. It’s a veritable stench of champagne and shame.
I’m counting down the minutes until I can get off this plane, have a massive sleep and wake up refreshed tomorrow. But of course, I’m counting down the days until next year’s Nuit de Paris.