Domestique Partner: What it’s like to be a pro spouse
The Domestique Partner is an anonymous columnist who will be 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
You probably already know me, or think you do. You see me in the corner of the TV screen at bike races, just off to the side as my partner gets interviewed. I’m a pro partner.
I probably pop up on Twitter feeds once in a while when he shares snippets of personal details. My life might look like a mini version of Victoria Beckham’s or Gisele’s.
It is not. A three-week grand tour is a lot longer than a football game. And I haven’t seen the inside of too many private jets.
Let me welcome you into my world and show you what it’s really like. I’ll check in every few weeks throughout the season, so keep an eye out.
We’re now well into grand tour season. That means that the early-season race schedule — the one they give our guy at training camp, the one that we plan our life around — that’s out the window. First up is the Giro. If that’s locked in, all good. But if not, it’s the “reserve” game. Don’t make plans for all of May! Because who knows where you’ll be.
The hardest, though, is the time between the Giro and the Tour. The long lists for the Tour are finished, but that’s up to 15 riders. After weeks and months of competing together against other squads, the teammates on that long list are now rivals, each man looking out for himself.
There are a few ways that plays out behind the scenes.
1. A new friendship “alliance” with the team leader forms. I get this. It’s strategically smart. Get the guy who wants you there with him to vouch for you. Be his best asset in the race but also be his friend off the bike. I’ve got to say, all good, except for the increasing frequency of awkward double dinner dates that happen around this time of year, when everyone is jostling for position. Nothing against anyone individually, but there’s only so much small talk we can all make. And of course, there’s always that uncomfortable moment of who’s footing the bill. A few years back we spent a good two weeks with another couple before the Tour de France, training at altitude on a freaking island (see my next bullet point). Two weeks. No escape. Every meal. Well, one of the two got the spot on the squad; the other didn’t. They aren’t teammates anymore anyway, but we haven’t even had a coffee together since.
After 10 days, even nature and tax-free booze get old.
2. Time at altitude. OK, OK: Beautiful vistas. But shit, it’s cold up there. When you’ve got your partner back for some precious days before he embarks on a grand tour, home time would be nice. But, no. Off to Tenerife, Sierra Nevada, Andorra. It must be nice for those Americans who have the time to get back to Boulder: burritos and altitude all in one. These European mountain towns don’t have a lot going on, and even less so in the summer months. The nature walks are great, as are the occasional ski lifts up and walks down. But after 10 days, even nature and tax-free booze get old.
3. Everyone, everyone, asks you endlessly if your partner is riding the Tour. This is because many friends and most of our extended families don’t realize there are bike races aside from the Tour de France. And during the Tour de France, the concern is not with how we’re doing in our lonely month, just about how our partners are. But the lead up, that’s even worse. We don’t want to let people down when they ask if he’s racing, so we say, “We don’t know, we will know four or five days in advance.” “Oh, but I want to book tickets to see him race. Should I?” Disappointing people is never fun. So we patiently avoid the questions for as long as possible.
Cyclists are the hangriest MFers I’ve ever come across.
4. It’s super diet time. Nothing wrong with some healthy eating, but a month of not being allowed to have chocolate in the house? C’mon, guys, have you ever had PMS? The thing that no one’s talking about, though: Cyclists are the hangriest MFers I’ve ever come across. (“Hangry is hungry-angry.) So when it’s time to get down to race weight, they might not know what PMS is, but they sure act like they’ve got it the entire month of June. The day they leave for the race, I go straight to the super-marche for some king-size bars of Lindt.
And on that note, I best be going. You would never believe it, but I’ve got a double date dinner to attend …