The Tour de France means different things to different people, but for most, it is about the unique magic the race’s incredible mix of pomp and performance creates. And for one person at least, much of that magic is produced from the back of a small van in the shadows of the Tour’s podium.
For the past 20 years, Fabrice Pierrot has been the man behind the Tour’s distinctive jerseys, and it is he who prints the team names and logos onto the yellow, green, polka dot and white jersey every day for the post-stage podium ceremony.
“I have always been passionate about cycling jerseys, and I have a personal collection of more than 2,000,” Pierrot told Rouleur as he prepared the different distinctive jerseys before stage seven into Bordeaux. “I started collecting jerseys in the 1990s when I was an amateur racer, and at one point, I got my own press and started printing the jerseys for smaller races like the Quatre Jours de Dunkerque. And then, finally, I started working for the Tour de France.”
Today Pierrot works over 100 days per year in what has become his self-made profession. “I don’t even have a title for what I do exactly, perhaps ‘jersey man’. I really don’t know,” he says with a laugh.
Indeed, he has a unique job, but while he mainly works in the shadows of the race, everybody on the Tour, it seems, knows him. After all, he is a permanent fixture and key to the daily flow of the race’s festivities.
Going into each Tour de France, Pierrot makes up a complete set of distinctive podium jerseys for every team. One of these is then often used during the awards ceremony, especially on a day when a particular jersey changes hands.
But then the real work begins. “I visit the teams in the morning to deliver a complete set of jerseys to each rider and make sure that all of the jerseys are just right, that the size is right, the zipper hasn’t broken or something. Then I drive ahead to the finish. First, I take the jerseys that will most likely be awarded to the podium. And then after the race, I print up a full set for each respective rider that I distribute when the team buses arrive the next day.”
Each rider receives a short-sleeve and long-sleeve jersey, a sleeveless vest and, if necessary, a rain jacket. “Also, some riders prefer a full skinsuit these days, so depending on their desire, I make one of those too.” Pierrot has a full day and one where he must also anticipate the day to come. “I’m never quite sure, but during the Tour, I print over 1,000 jerseys.”
Pierrot admits that he is often stressed during the Tour, but he finds plenty of satisfaction in his unique profession. “It’s always really satisfying at the end of the season when I gloss through the yearbooks and see all of the podium pictures with jerseys I printed.”
“And then there are the riders,” he adds. “I have definitely gotten to know many of them. They all know who I am. After all, when I come to see them, it is for a good reason!”