The yellow jersey changes hands among cyclists every time someone takes the lead at the Tour de France. But ahead of that lucky rider is a person who never has to strip away the winner's color -- and who always finishes the race ahead of the rest of the cyclists.
Claire Pedrono used to be a cyclist. Now, according to a feature by Joshua Robinson in The Wall Street Journal, her claim to fame is as the Tour de France's official ardoisière, or "chalkboard lady." Since 2010, Pedrono has been loading into the passenger seat of a motorcycle and leading the Tour's cyclists down the winding path covering more than 2,000 miles of European landscape.
Pedrono's job? To tell the race leaders how far ahead they are of the pack chasing behind. Pedrono scrawls the distance onto the chalkboard and holds it up ahead of the riders.
For three weeks every summer, that's her job.
"Being in the atmosphere of the race, you're practically crowdsurfing," she tells the WSJ in French. "You don't get used to it."
With today's technology, better -- or at least more modernized -- methods of delivering information to riders has been developed. Some races use an electronic sign that is affixed to the back of the motorcycle.
But tradition is important at the Tour de France, and many people -- fans and riders included -- prefer the chalkboard, which has been used almost as long as the Tour has been running.
So Pedrono's job will not be outsourced to a circuitboard. For the fifth straight year, she is the only woman traversing the full Tour de France.
— Brian Nolan (@BrianJagxj40) July 9, 2015
Pedrono, who got her job by persistently lobbying Tour officials during a visit to her hometown in France, has found comfort riding a bike that travels up to 60 and 70 miles per hour during tight mountain descents featuring hairpin turns. On such descents, she's learned that riders don't need to be updated -- everyone is cruising along, so she sits back, relaxes, and takes in the view.
"I go through less chalk than I used to," she says. "It must have been stress-related."