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The Man Behind The Tour Jerseys

Every day on the Tour de France, the riders wage a fierce battle in an effort to won one of the Tour’s distinctive jerseys. Some dream of yellow, while others focus on the green points jersey or the polka dot climbers jersey. And others still fight for the white jersey, awarded to the best young rider. Little matter, the color, all of the Tour’s jerseys are vigorously contested, as it is an honor to wear just one of them, even for a day.

Words & images: James Startt
From: Le Harvre, France

But for the past 12 years, the man with the most jerseys is not a rider, but the unassuming Fabrice Pierrot.

Pierrot, in fact, is often far from the race itself. And at the end of every day, he can be found inside a small van, where he prepares all of the distinctive jerseys for the podium protocol ceremony, as well as a fresh set for each rider awarded one of the Tour’s jerseys each day.

“I would have loved to be a cyclist,” says Pierrot. “But to be a cyclist, you have to have talent. I didn’t have much of that.”

Pierrot, however, holds no regrets, insisting that he has his dream job. “As soon as I started working for the Tour, I wanted to make the jerseys. I’ve always been a collector and always dreamed of having a real Tour de France jersey, so for me this is a dream come true.”

But, he insists, the dream job came at a price. He left his job as a junior high school teacher so that he could cover more races and now spends close to 150 days a year on the road at the races. In addition to doing all of the races organized by the Tour de France, he works at smaller stage races like the Eneco Tour or the Tour of Belgium.

But the race he looks most forward to remains the Tour.

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“At the beginning of the Tour I must make up about 250 podium jerseys, one of each distinctive jersey, in each size for every team,” says Pierrot. Then, after each stage I replace the jerseys awarded to each rider and make up a full set for each rider for the next day.” On any given day, the riders are given a short-sleeve jersey, a long-sleeve jersey, a vest and a rain jacket. On the day of the time trial a rider will also receive a skin suit.

For each jersey he must iron the team sponsor logo onto the front and back of the jerseys with the hot iron press housed in the back of his van.

“The team staff know me and I make sure that a rider has just what they need. Andrei Greipel, who has the green jersey now, generally wears medium, but now he is wearing a small. The riders like their jerseys really tight, especially on the back. They don’t like to have too much room in their pockets.”

After stage 6 of this year’s Tour, Pierrot even had to work overtime. When he saw that Tony Martin crashed hard—while wearing the yellow jersey—he understood that he needed a back-up plan. “Unfortunately I have to anticipate the possibility that Tony might not be able to start tomorrow, so I will also make a set for Team Sky, since Chris Froome is in second place.”

Pierrot, however, insists that printing extra jerseys is not the hardest part of his job. “No, the hardest part of my job is saying ‘no’ to all of the people that ask me for a free jersey. I really get a lot of requests. But I can’t help them. After all, the jerseys do not belong to me!”

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