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A day with the swannies at the Tour of Britain – Rally Cycling


A swanny – or a soigneur if you want to use the proper French – is a human Swiss Army knife. They do everything they can to keep a bike racing team on the road. 

What does it take to be a good swanny? Patrique Hogemann has been a swanny for years. He says it’s about temperament.

“You have to be a giver not a taker. You have to put others before yourself, always.”

On the first day I met him, Hogemann gave me his lunch and went hungry himself – so I know from personal experience he really does believe in putting others first. Even press officers.

Most people know swannies as the people who give pro cyclists their massage after a race. What many folks don’t appreciate is just how much more there is to the job.

After an hour in the car with them chasing around the various feeding points of a stage in the Tour of Britain, one might think their most frequently used skill is cursing. Swannies can curse in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch – plus probably a handful of other languages – with the fluency of sailors, all the while navigating the narrow country roads of Britain with a kind of courageous confidence. 

And speaking of finding their way, swannies must make use of at least three different mapping systems to find their way from the parcours to the off-route path then battle their way back on to the parcours further along, before the peloton races by. If they miss, the riders might not get a feed, or a vital bidon of mix. They have to plan, execute and recalibrate 15 times a day. 

It’s high-stress and often high-stakes. But this is only the racing part of the day.

For the swannies on Rally Cycling the days begin early and finish late. 

In fact, it’s difficult to communicate just how much they do, day-in day-out, to help the riders perform. Cooking, massage, paying tolls, filling out expense receipts, driving the bus, driving the cars, filling the team vehicles with gas, supporting the riders as soon as they cross the line, and giving directions back to wherever they parked the bus. 

They must fill musettes with food they have prepared, while at the same time keeping an eye on the load of laundry currently running in the team truck. In fact, every one of these tasks must be accomplished concurrently with others – so it takes galaxy brain-level organization skills. 

Lunch time

Haring through downtowns of cities they’ve never visited, looking desperately for the finish line, they are part getaway driver, part mafia fixer, part explorer.

If the finish is on top of a climb and the parking is not, guess who is hiking up to the line with an enormous backpack full of drinks and spare clothing. 

And on the best days, they’re also the first ones to celebrate a victory with the riders.

Hogemann says good swannies are at the center of everything, too. 

“The swannie is like the spider in the web. They have to see everything, plan for everything.”

When you boil it down, the job has a simple purpose.

“You have to remove every obstacle to the riders’ performance. If I can look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day and say I truly did everything to help the team, that is enough.”

Even when it means giving your lunch to the press officer. 

 

Tour of Britain stage 4 results
1 Wout Van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma 5:04:22
2 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep
3 Michael Woods (Can) Israel Start-up Nation 0:00:01
4 Mikkel Honoré (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:00:04
5 Ethan Hayter (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers 0:00:08
6 Daniel Martin (Irl) Israel Start-up Nation 0:00:13
7 Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Alpecin-Fenix 0:00:16
8 Simon Clarke (Aus) Team Qhubeka Assos
9 Sergio Roman Martin Galan (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA 0:00:27
10 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team DSM 0:00:29
11 Maximilian Stedman (GBr) Canyon DHB Sungod
12 Carlos Rodriguez Cano (Spa) Ineos Grenadiers
13 Maxime Bouet (Fra) Team Arkea-Samsic 0:00:35
14 Mark Donovan (GBr) Team DSM 0:00:37
15 Oliver Stockwell (GBr) Great Britain 0:00:41
16 Xandro Meurisse (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix
17 Joel Nicolau Beltran (Spa) Caja Rural-Seguros RGA
18 Connor Swift (GBr) Team Arkea-Samsic 0:00:44
19 Gavin Mannion (USA) Rally Cycling
26 Robin Carpenter (USA) Rally Cycling 0:01:13

GC standings after stage 4
1 Wout Van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma 14:44:49
2 Ethan Hayter (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers 0:00:02
3 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:00:11
4 Mikkel Honoré (Den) Deceuninck-QuickStep 0:00:21
5 Michael Woods (Can) Israel Start-up Nation 0:00:40
6 Rohan Dennis (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers 0:00:44
7 Daniel Martin (Irl) Israel Start-up Nation 0:00:56
8 Kristian Sbaragli (Ita) Alpecin-Fenix 0:01:13
9 Mark Donovan (GBr) Team DSM 0:01:34
10 Xandro Meurisse (Bel) Alpecin-Fenix 0:01:38
17 Robin Carpenter (USA) Rally Cycling 0:02:13
18 Gavin Mannion (USA) Rally Cycling 0:02:28

Stage 5 of the Tour of Britain kicks off on Thursday at 6:30 am EDT, with television pictures on GCN+ from 8 am EDT. 

— Tom Owen to rallycycling.com

A beautiful day to be blue in Britain – Rally Cycling

After stunning the peloton to become the first-ever American stage winner at the Tour of Britain on Monday, today saw Robin Carpenter and the rest of our men’s team fight hard to try and retain the leader’s blue jersey.

Last off the ramp in Llandelio, Wales, the riders put in a gutsy ride that produced an 11th best time on the day. Their mark was beaten by stage winners Ineos Grenadiers, with their rider Ethan Hayter going into the blue of overall race leader.

Photographer Matt Grayson was there to capture the action.

Stage 4 of the Tour of Britain kicks off on Wednesday at 5:30 am EDT, with television pictures on GCN+ from 8 am EDT. 

— Tom Owen to rallycycling.com

Breakaway day for Berwick in his first Grand Tour


Israel Start-Up Nation’s Grand Tour debutant, Sebastian Berwick, showed an impressive fighting spirit on the challenging stage 12 of the Vuelta a España as he made it into the breakaway of the day.

After two very hot and very hard days on the bike, Thursday’s stage gave the riders no rest either. The first two hours took place in a blistering pace with countless attacks and counterattacks. The Israel Start-Up Nation riders tried multiple times to get away but it wasn’t until Berwick took off that a group finally manage to distance the peloton.

Despite this being his first-ever Grand Tour, Berwick put up a great fight at the front of the race. However, the pack never gave the break much of a gap and on the slopes of the final climb, the riders got caught and new attacks occurred.

Ultimately, a reduced bunch ended up fighting for the victory with James Piccoli finishing as best ISN rider on the day. On paper, tomorrow’s stage should be a day for the sprinters, which will give Itamar Einhorn a chance to shine.

Sebastian Berwick: “It was a hard day out there as it took a long time before the break went away. I was actually a little lucky because when I went, it was the first time I attacked so my teammates were a little jealous of me.

“It was nice to be up there in the break, I knew I didn’t have the best legs today but when you’re in it, you have got to commit. This has definitely given me a confidence boost and helped me realize that I can sort of be up there if I put my mind to it.”

— Mikkel to israelcyclingacademy.com

Alexis Renard takes second place on the last day of Tour de Pologne

Israel Start-Up Nation finished off Tour de Pologne with an impressive performance by Alexis Renard who took second place on the stage after the early breakaway managed to hold off the sprinters in a nail-biting finish.

After several strong performances throughout the race, Renard showed off the ISN team colors once again on the final day of racing. The young Frenchman infiltrated a small but strong breakaway early in the stage, which ultimately proved too strong for the peloton to bring back.

On the final kilometer, the sprinters could see the quartet right in front of them but they didn’t manage to catch them before the line. Renard took the wheel of Julius van den Berg (EF Education – Nippo) but despite a strong effort on the final meters, he had to settle for second place.

This is the third podium spot for Renard in the recent month of racing, once more proving to be in incredibly good shape at the moment.

Alexis Renard: “This morning, we talked about the possibilities of a breakaway staying away and Matthias [Brändle] told me that with the tail wind all day, the break could make it all the way. It was a really strong group that got away and we went full gas until the end. During the last lap, I was thinking about how I could take the win. I saw that Van den Berg was the strongest in the group so with 300 meters to go, I pretended to start my sprint. Van den Berg saw that he started his own sprint. I tried to pass him on the final meters but he was too strong. However, I don’t have any regrets.”

— Mikkel to israelcyclingacademy.com