What are Soigneurs?

Soigneur is a strange-looking French word. It’s roughly pronounced “swan-YER.” And sometimes, just “swannie.”

A near English translation is “caretaker.”

When we were children our parents were our swannies. They cooked for us, washed us, drove us where we needed to be.

Pro cycling teams have a staff of swannies that take care of the riders in similar ways. They often sign-on as massage therapists. But then their job descriptions take on many smaller yet important tasks.

They drive riders to and from airports, shop for food, make breakfast, wash kit, repair kit, pin on race numbers, fill water bottles and musettes for races, handing them out in the feed zone. While mechanics wash the bikes, swannies clean the team cars inside and out.

At the ends of races, you’ll see swannies running after their riders with backpacks full of post-race clean up supplies, ready-to-go recovery drinks and snacks, and fresh kit for podium presentations.

Swannies take care of all the little details. So, a pro rider only needs to concentrate on racing, sleeping, and eating. No need to worry about forgetting things – like a pair of shoes at home on race day morning! (Full admission: I’ve done that at least once.)

What if you could have your own Soigneur?

Swannies remind me of the Scouting motto: Be Prepared.

Us amateurs don’t have the luxury of employing a swannie prepared to manage all the little details of our racing and training.

How can we Be Prepared ourselves then? I’ve got a strategy that works well.

Swannie checklists.

Checklists are simple but powerful. They help you plan. Reviewed properly, they reinforce reliability.

Checklists keep air travel as safe as possible. Pilots have pre- and post-flight checklists to ensure everything that must be done gets done.

Create daily, weekly, and monthly bike task checklists to keep your bike running smooth and ready every time you swing your leg over the top tube.

Capture all the packing details – like kit, bottles and gels – you’ll need on race day into a checklist format.

The more you can get these tasks out of your head and onto checklists, the more freedom you’ll have riding and racing. You’ll dial down your pre-race anxiety, knowing everything has been taken care of … by you.

You’ll still need to do the work – make the bottles, pin on race numbers, pack your kit. But you won’t need to worry about forgetting anything. It’s all remembered right there for you on your checklist.

Take a few moments the next time you get ready to ride or race, and start your own.
Even a simple photo can work. Lay out all your race kit from shoes up to helmet, in a little faux version of a rider deflated on the ground. Take a picture and store it on your phone. When you pack on race day, open that photo, and look. Have you packed everything from head to toe?

Free Your Mind

Your mind doesn't need to be bothered remembering everything on race day. Use swannie checklists and free your mind to think about the racecourse, your teammates and whatever racing strategies and tactics you’ll be using that day.

Your only excuse for not performing on race day should be your simple lack of form.

Trust that your swannie checklist review has packed all your race kit, nutrition and bottles. Trust that your mechanical checklist review has ensured your bike won’t break down come crunch time.

Then feel the freedom to think only about hitting it full gas for your winning breakaway!

So, what do you fumble remembering the most? Start making your own swannie checklists today.

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