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Saturday, July 17, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Tour de France

The soigneur is every cyclist's best friend

Seattle Times staff

After a stage like today's — 127 miles and seven climbs, including an hors categorie (off the scale) finish on Plateau de Beille — the most important member of the cycling team isn't the rider.

It's the soigneur.

The word is sort of a catch-all for a personal attendant who revives riders' legs with daily massage, provides other therapy and might also be part dietitian, part psychiatrist.

When Tyler Hamilton broke his collarbone in Stage 1 last year, Danish therapist Ole Kare Foli kept the American in the race with massage and acupressure. "He's a magician," Hamilton said.

Greg LeMond's longtime soigneur, Otto Jacome, was the first to notice that the cyclist was anemic during the 1989 Giro d'Italia. Doctors gave LeMond an injection of iron, and two months later he won the Tour de France.

In any cyclist-soigneur relationship, personal grooming is important. That's why cyclists shave their legs.

"The pros say it makes road-rash care easier and massage more comfortable," the July issue of Outside magazine explains. "Knotted hairs turn nightly rubdowns into misery sessions."

Going bare is a smooth move, as any soigneur will tell you.

Mark Akins: 206-464-8994 or makins@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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