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
Someone recently sent me a link to a Daily Mail article on “Glamorous Cycling WAGs.” Yes, cycling in the UK has reached this pop-culture benchmark.
I’ve never encountered a more lopsided, narrow description of the women romantically attached to men’s cycling. The article presents us like a group of footballer’s wives. Granted, I’d love to think we’re all that dazzling, but it’s pretty far from the truth.
So, allow me to better define the taxonomy of my fellow domestique partners. Most of us fall into one of these categories — and very few into the “former model/still a model” bracket. I’m going to do some generalizing here, but much like a high school cafeteria a la “Mean Girls” allow me to go Lindsey Lohan on this for you.
[related title=”More Domestique Partner” align=”right” tag=”Domestique-Partner”]
Social media floozy: Thanks to this classification’s inherently public nature, the SMF is probably why everyone on the outside thinks we are so fancy-pants. A few of the girls have made it their personal mission to show off their lives via social media. Champagne on the roof terrace? Yup. Seaside Gelato? Mmmhmm. Beach holidays and business-class flights — we see it all and can’t un-see it.
One may notice though, these pictures come hot and heavy during racing season. Why? Pardon the pop psychology, but Instagram likes are surely a lovely remedy to long evenings at home alone.
(And major kudos to the ladies who have bigger followings than their pro athlete partners. Excellent development of your personal brand.)
The stay-at-home support crew: Like a pit crew at the Indy 500, for many non-working partners the first responsibility is the maintenance and care of their partner.
Just to be clear, this isn’t glamorous. It’s not lazy, either. And it’s certainly not “anti-feminist” or anti-independent.
The facts of the matter are that many of the women don’t have a legal right to work abroad, or their field of expertise doesn’t exist in the location they reside (at least not in the language they speak), or are raising the family on their own during grand tours.
I know a few qualified nurses, for example, as well as a marketing manager, a teacher; they don’t have the language fluency or the network to simply drop into work for six months a year in a foreign country. From the outside, it can definitely look like an easy life, but it’s always different from the outside looking in. Making lunch with a calorie count in mind is no Masterchef-style extravaganza. Also, ever tried cleaning a road rash wound? Or getting blood stains out of the 300-thread-count sheets? All just a day in the life …
Pro cyclist: Power couples all the way, here. There are quite a few pro cycling duos out there — some public, others less so.
First, what a fantastic way to support each other. There are definitely a lot of foam rollers and recovery shakes in these households, though. The unique way these racing ladies can relate to their partner, support them, ride with them, and understand things that non-cycling partners never can creates a special bond for sure. Let’s just hope they don’t check each other for saddle sores.
The biggest struggle for athlete pairs is clashing race schedules and training camps, which can leave little time together. Plus, as we are all aware the income discrepancy between male and female racers is pretty massive, so the ability to sort of “share the burden” is a benefit.
Industry insiders: There are a few partners that work in pro cycling. This is often how the couple met.
Secretly, the rest of us are a bit jealous. These women are out at races and getting paid to be there, which means they get to see their fellas a bit more than the rest of us. And to be honest, many are a bit wary of the fact that our partners knew them before we did. And generally they seem to always know more than we do!
On the other hand, when the rest of us go to races, we get to enjoy our time; these hard-toilers always look a bit weary by day three of a race. And team- or race-issued mandatory polo shirts and chinos are seriously not flattering on anyone.
Nature buff/health freak: Okay, so aside from the partners that are actual professional athletes, many a lady is a sporty type (I mean, good common ground right?) These are the girls that have coffee in their running kit then go on a casual jog, come home, make lunch and are back out for a hike in the afternoon.
The gear hand-me-downs are a mega bonus for these partners — it’s not uncommon to see a crew of girls in last year’s kit heading out for a MTB ride. But compression socks? That’s going a bit far. Moderation dears, moderation. The pros can’t wait to get out of their kit. These girls can’t wait to get in.
Sweatpants queen: On the flip-side of the nature buff/health freak, there are a few sweatpants-loving, Netflix-watching girls around. And yes its possible to get Netflix in foreign countries if you know the trick to it. Sweatpants usually come with cocktails (or beers, or wine.) And we are talking real sweats. None of those Lululemon yoga pants.
It can be a pretty intense switch from partner at home training to being away for a month racing. It’s often a bit of a shock, and can definitely bring on loneliness. Binge watching TV from home can be a great way to feel a bit less homesick on foreign soil, so for this breed, be prepared to show up on their doorstep with the “Orange is the New Black” box set, a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.
Full-time worker: We must draw a distinction between locals and foreigners here. Full-time working ladies are far less common among riders and partners living outside their home country. But many a WAG of European riders actually lives quite a normal existence, working proper career jobs. They don’t have the language and other barriers in the way of a normal working life.
These are ladies the rest of us might not even know exist. They are at races less, on social media less, and generally are staying out of the community of riders transplanted into foreign countries.
The long-distance lover: Some girls just don’t want to be far from home and they tend to stick to the off-season base for most of the year. Not much to say on this, as we don’t see them much. Must be tough, Skype calls cutting out left, right, and center, but I don’t know them well, so I can’t speak to the motivation. Likely work, family, friends, culture. They sure must make up for lost time in the offseason.
Daily Mailers: Then, of course, we have the type that made the Daily Mail. It’s a small (tiny) percentage but of course they are there: the models, the fashionistas, half of a celebrity couple.
The rest of us await the day the press dubs one a combined name à-la “Brangelina.” Peta and Mark — Park? Hmm. Chris and Michelle — Chrichelle? Nope.
Ah, wait. Got it. Petarina Sagan.