Women’s Tour de France: the Saint-Michel Auber93 and its daily time trial

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Twenty-one years after their last participation in the men’s Tour de France under the name of Bigmat Auber, the formation of Seine-Saint-Denis, now called Saint-Michel Auber93, returns to the Grande Boule through the women’s competition. France 24 followed its teams until the third stage between Reims and Epernay.

There is no time trial on the route of the Tour de France Féminin 2022. However, it is this practice that looks like a typical day for all the teams participating in the Grand Bowl. Equipment, briefing, transfer, protocol ceremony, media coverage, preparation of supplies… a phase takes place at breakneck speed for the riders and their technical staff responsible for keeping them in the best conditions for each stage there is.

Tuesday July 26, the start of the third phase between Reims and Epernay is scheduled for 1 p.m. But the day starts much earlier for the Saint-Michel Auber93 team, recorded the day before at the foot of the last difficulty of the day’s route, the formidable Côte de la Rébellion and 12.2% with its average drop of 900 meters. From 7:30 am, the management is hard at work preparing the equipment with a final inspection of the bikes, preparation of the water cans and delivery of the following cars.

eve exorcism

Just before the start, the team’s sports director Charlotte Bravard and performance director Simon Arnold gather their troops in the hotel lounge for a traditional briefing. The two invite each of the first riders to express themselves on the podium of the first day, marked by a terrifying fall, including Simone Boillard, the leader of the “Medellins”, nicknamed the women’s team of Saint-Michel. East.

The pre-race briefing is an irreverent ritual. ©Romain Houeix, France 24

“It’s a shame. The girls were doing a great job of keeping me ahead. When I arrived at the final circuit, I wanted to be classified. We were almost there and it collapsed in front of me. At the worst of times”, analysis the 22-year-old Quebecer, who still bears the marks of a fall on his right hand.

>> Women’s Tour de France: During her disastrous phase with the FDJ team

“You were in front for three quarters of the race. You have nothing to envy to the biggest teams”, encourages Charlotte Bravard. “The fall turned everything upside down and we lost our goal which was a white jersey for Simone. We’re going to find a new jersey. At least you’re all still here,” she adds. Another French team, FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope, was not so lucky, losing its leader Marta Cavalli in a jiffy.

“Put a pawn in front”

Then keep deciphering during the day between Reims and Epernay. A rugged stage, 133.6 km long and with more than 1,500 meters of elevation to climb. Six runners already know him, having recognized him two weeks earlier.

“Racing today is so much about position that these reconnaissances have become necessary. They allow runners to know the terrain to anticipate obstacles,” says Simon Arnold.

The director also recalls it: the first 40 mountainous kilometers, with street furniture and narrow streets crossed by villages, a part exposed to the wind but “weak a priori today”, off Mesnil-sur-Ogar Finish 40km “which can skim the peloton” and apparently the final bump of the Rebellion which “will be played on the pedals” – the strongest would have to understand. To support his explanation, he scrolls through data collected on the platform, fruit lengthy research, carried out exclusively using Veloviewer, software that has established itself as a bible for pro teams.

Charlotte Bravard speaks again: “Our objective today is to put a pawn in front and if possible to have a good one. With the profile, I would like it to be a sandrine. [Bideau] or cocoa [Coraline Demay, NLDR], The peloton must give way to the breakaway. By being in it, you can stop the right wagon when the strongest trigger is hostility, ”concluded the sporting director before heading to the team’s rims.

david versus goliath

Saint-Michel Auber93 knows its strengths and weaknesses. Although formed in 2012, the team only achieved professional status at the start of the 2022 season. But they are not afraid to challenge the big teams in the World Tour, the highest division in the women’s cycling in which all the riders make a living from cycling. On the side of “Medellin”, this is not yet the case. Thus, Barbara Fonseca is a sports teacher when she is not on a bike. At the same time, Alison Avoin continues her studies to become a neuropsychologist.

Saint-Michel Auber 93 has its own history and its orange color is recognizable from afar. The cycling team, made up of both men and women, is currently France’s second oldest structure, having been formed in 1994. And the David vs Goliath side is in the club’s DNA, with Stephen Jawlett as team manager. team from the start.

In the paddock, the bikes are ready for use.
In the paddock, the bikes are ready for use. ©Romain Houeix, France 24

The team’s history is also deeply rooted in its Ile-de-France roots: “Aubervilliers and Seine-Saint-Denis are truly our lifelong companions,” recalls Stéphane Javlet.

As the 61-year-old team manager says, “Everyone retains this vision of our small team, which won its first Tour de France stage victory with Cyril Sogren. He struck a chord with the French public. increased popularity. The vehicles take position in the paddock. A logistics that reached the top of the Tour with 13 members of the management instead of the usual six in the race.

“We arrived on tiptoe at the start of the year and finally we did a Paris-Roubaix, ride-London and here we are at the most beautiful event in the world: the Tour de France. It is a source of pride and recognition of our seriousness and the marketing of the female domain. Our policy” affects the manager.

“We hope that the dynamics of the Tour will lead to real equal pay,” said Stephen Jawlett, who has set his sights on 2023. Because the economic balance remains fragile for Saint-Michel Auber 93, who wants to hitch the wagons when the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) will create its second women’s division, Continental Pro, by 2025.

As manager Saint-Michel Auber reminisces about the 93’s rich history, the irrepressible pre-race rituals continue for the team’s six drivers. After getting on the bus in uniform, they put on their bibs and then get on the bike. A short tour of the mixed zone to answer the journalists, a few discussions with the impatient public in the paddock and it’s already time for the warm-up.

“Fortunately we are not paid by Cain”

However, the assistants’ car does not start. He must leave 20 minutes earlier to prepare the first refueling point of the race. Direction Kilometer 36, in the middle of the vineyards, to be ready for the passage of the runners. A sandwich is swallowed on the side of the road and it is already time for Valérie and Ronan to put on their Saint-Michel chasuble and get into place. The regulations are mandatory, they are both located on the right side of the road, at a distance of about thirty meters from each other. During this time, the community-manager collects some shots. The peloton arrives shortly after. On the field, they manage to give each runner a can.

“Fortunately we are not paid by the given can,” jokes Valérie, an energetic fifties.

Valérie and Ronan are able to give cards to runners in need.
Valérie and Ronan are able to give cards to runners in need. ©Romain Houeix, France 24

The time to let the crew of the vehicles leave after the race and we should already be off again for the next point. A real race against time to win the first 58 kilometers of the peloton and recharge your batteries. Then the belote again to position herself at kilometer 94. During the journey, Valérie juggles between race data and her GPS, while consulting “old-fashioned” maps to orient herself and avoid road obstacles. Caste. He is in constant contact with Charlotte Bravard and Simon Arnold to advise them on the post of assistants. Two trackers, located in the team manager’s car behind the peloton, then transmit the information to the riders via headsets. Sourcing is an art.

“There are already regulatory limits, which means we can’t refuel the first 30 kilometers and the last 20. Then we try to get level with the hills so the peloton can come slower.” Also understand where the peloton risks unfriendly nerves. In the end, we also do according to the infrastructure of the road because you have to be able to chain the points”, explains Valérie, satisfied at the last stop, while six riders made a pit stop at the last point.

After the third stop, it’s time for Ronan and Valerie to finish their last task of the day. Race to the finish line for the final pit stop. This one after the race. This time no more cans of water, but fresh water and a redesign of six daring “Madeleines” tired of the effort required for the last bump on top of all the soda.

The race did not go as planned. Contrary to expectations, the peloton again refused to develop a breakaway despite St-Michel’s attempts to dodge. When hostilities began between the overall contenders, they managed to hold on. Corelli Demme is also in 24th place overall, a respectable score for Saint-Michel Auber 93.

“The race was difficult to read. The peloton didn’t let go so we knew it would be tough at the end. But the girls held up well, especially Coralie [Demay] and simon [Boilard], We were scared for him after his fall yesterday. It was complicated at first, but in the end she came back very strong, even if she almost ended up with a puncture,” argued Charlotte Bravard. “We hope that tomorrow will be a little more favorable to us. “

On behalf of the staff, we are working to pack everything up quickly. We should already go to Troyes and the next hotel. There, it will be necessary to clean the cycle, eat, sleep. And be ready to start again the next day.

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