“Attack by Tadej Pogacar! Jonas Vingegaard stays on his wheel!” In front of the second steering car of the Tour de France, Sébastien Piquet explains the movements of the race every day on the airwaves of Radio Tour. The Grande Boucle internal radio is broadcast in all vehicles following the peloton. An essential information function for the media but also for the sports directors, informed of the evolution of the race and the needs of their drivers.
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Helmet screwed on his head, microphone, notes and route book in hand, Sébastien Piquet lives his 18th Tour de France at the heart of the peloton. A former journalist, he took advantage in 2005 of the departure of his predecessor, John Lelangue, now coach of the Lotto Soudal team. “SO [Amaury sport organisation, qui gère le Tour de France] he offered me to try the Tour de Qatar, and obviously it went well since I went to the Tour de France and I haven’t missed one since.”, he says. Sébastien Piquet also officiates at the world championships and all other races organized by ASO, including Paris-Roubaix.
Positioned at the back of the peloton on the flat stages, or behind the pack of favorites on the mountain, Sébastien Piquet has a privileged view of the race. “During my first mountain stage, in Courchevel in 2005, I had chills when I realized that I was following closely behind the yellow jersey. When you follow the favorites and there are attacks like this year, I often have a big smile on the face. and goosebumps. For someone who likes to ride a bike, this is the best place in the world, but it shouldn’t be said too highly.”River.
Close to the pilots, Sébastien Piquet represents an essential relief for their requests. “My priority is to report the cars to the sport directors, because I have the peloton in front of me, and sometimes I have a driver raise his hand to ask for a bottle or sometimes he shows me the flat rear tire to call his car. and change your bike”says the announcer.
From the side “less pleasant memories” represent the falls, with “runners screaming in pain on the ground.” the the speaker must report it “to Radio Tour as soon as possible, so that the medical service can intervene and the vehicles are informed of the danger. All this without making a mistake about the identity of the drivers, as this affects journalists, commentators and many safe for the their athletic directors. We usually report the fall, after the fallen runners.”.
After 18 years of service at some of the biggest cycling races in the world, the announcer recognizes the riders quite easily. “After three weeks of racing, I usually know their numbers by heart too”. When in doubt, he has a card with these numbers, which he also uses to memorize the position of the pilots. “We work with three informative motos placed at different points in the race. The front one gives me the numbers of the breakaways, which I circle with a certain color on the grid, then the next moto gives me the interspersed riders, which I circle with another color, and so on, to then inform the following vehicles”explains Sébastien Piquet.
With his hands busy with his notes, the speaker uses a pedal to turn on the microphone. There are different channels available, to intervene on the radio intended for all vehicles, to communicate only with the information bikes, to interact with the marshals, or to talk only with the cars of the race management.
“As soon as I press the pedal, the microphone is on. But I have to be careful, because sometimes I turn to my rider to say something and I have to have the reflex to press the pedal. times, he had spoken . on my sandwich and everyone had heard it, it made the cars laugh”River.
Although sometimes the tone gets carried away when the race accelerates, Sébastien Piquet tries to be as understandable as possible. “I remember Bernard Hinault telling me in 2005: ‘Kid, keep calm. Because if you get excited, you’ll upset the sporting directors, who will be driving anyway’.”. The tone, however, can become more vehement when the sometimes recalcitrant cars and motorcycles need to be properly replaced in the line of vehicles, so as not to interfere with the racers.
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In the event of an incident, the announcer must also remain calm and composed. “This year, during the neutralization, I was behind the peloton and it was at the front where the demonstration took place. So the informants told me what was happening, and we, in the car, immediately had the reflex to take the time because we knew we were going to neutralize the stage, then restart the race with the same gaps. Then, under the supervision of the president of the jury, I indicated on the radio when the groups could resume”he says.
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The stages end in a paradox for Sébastien Piquet. He’s the first to officially announce the winner on the Radio Tour… even though he never sees the end. Once across the line, the announcer’s day doesn’t end there, as he dons a second journalist hat and steps up to the podium to interview riders on behalf of the organization.