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Tour de Pez: ASO’s Marilyn Urtubia
Roadside Look Back: For the press core, one of the more familiar sights behind the scenes at this year’s Tour de France was the welcoming smile of Marilyn Urtubia. Employed by the Amaury Sport Organisation, she’s the person who helps sort out the media’s problems, liaises with the Tour’s Press Chief and translates for Alberto Contador. That’s a pretty important set of responsibilities right there!

In an attempt to soothe my nerves ahead of my stage eight trip on the foto moto, I sat down in the Village Depart for a few minutes with Marilyn who’d organized for me to have the trip of a lifetime. The riders and the route are only part of the Tour; there are hundreds, indeed thousands, of people who keep it rolling smoothly, and Marilyn is one of those people.

PEZ: Tell us a little about yourself, Marilyn ...
Marilyn: I’m a sports journalist, that was my job back home in Chile. I was working for Chilean radio, and I started to follow the career of the rally champion Carlo De Gavardo, who’d excelled in the Paris-Dakar rally and events like that.

An ASO journalist was following the race and he helped me to get interviews with De Gavardo. For me, this was really important because De Gavardo is big news in Chile, a hero. I used to do soccer coverage, and I’m not that into it, but soccer is everything in Chile ... so I guess I was fighting for De Gavardo against soccer!

I worked as a press relations officer on the Six-Days Enduro event in Chile, and I’ve also worked for competitor services, too, so I know both sides of the coin – the press and the organiser. Because I was a journalist, I know about deadlines, what people need to do their jobs successfully. Now I know how to help from this side.

PEZ: How did you join the Tour?
Marilyn: Christophe Marchadier, the head of Press Relations on the Tour had seen my CV and called offering me the chance to come and work here. I said ‘Yes’ right away!

I’m so excited to get the chance to discover the Tour for myself, because I certainly wouldn’t have got that opportunity in Chile ... we just don’t have anyone in the race to capture the attention at home.

So now I’m working for ASO, helping journalists on the Tour with their queries. It’s actually my first cycling event for ASO, although I did the Dakar rally for a service supplier for ASO in Argentina.

PEZ: Your language skills are fantastic ...
Marilyn: I speak Spanish, French, English, German ... I learnt a little Russian, and Chinese, too, when I worked on the Transoriental Rally. If you try to learn just a little of a language when you travel somewhere, it makes such a difference. People are much more willing to try and help you.

PEZ: Is it a good team to be part of?
Marilyn: It’s a great team! It’s wonderful working here, and I get a lot of assistance from my boss Christophe Marchadier, who is the head of the Press Relations.

It’s a young team, everyone’s enthusiastic and they want to work and get things right. If someone needs help, they won’t hesitate. I’m the only one on the team who’s new for the Tour, but it’s worked out really well. I thought I’d feel like a stranger, but everyone’s been so friendly.

PEZ: How would you describe your role here?
Marilyn: I’m like the hard disc. I can’t forget anything! I remember all that Christophe has to do, and help him as much as possible because he has so much to do! I drive the car in the evening so he can be on the phone.

I have the ‘sac magique’ with all the numbers for the photographs for the press. I have spare road books for those who’ve forgotten theirs. I’ve also been organizing the timetable for the foto motos.

I also make sure that the stage winner each day gets to the video truck for the press conference, to the interview space, and if necessary I translate into English, Spanish or French. I did the press conference for Alberto Contador before the Tour started.

PEZ: What’s Contador like? He looked a bit bored in that press conference ...
Marilyn: I found him really nice. One of my jobs is to follow Contador as he doesn’t speak French. The other day he was in the interview zone behind the podium and he saw his girlfriend by the barriers and went over to see her.

Of course, all the press tried to go to, and I tried to stop them so Contador could have some privacy but ... I’m not that big! Anyway, his people saw what had happened and later they came to say thank you for trying. It’s a simple job in some ways, but things like that are really rewarding.

PEZ: The translation job must allow you to see how the riders really are close up?
Marilyn: Yes, to a point. But especially when they’ve just finished a stage, you can see how exhausted they are. They’ve been focused on the race and then they just want to get to the bus. I do what I need to for the job and give them as much space as I can. My experience is that they are tired but polite!

PEZ: Is it stressful, knowing that a lot of the press are hanging on your translations for what might be a crucial quote?
Marilyn: The thing I actually worried about was ‘what if someone says something really bad about the Tour?’ Christophe, my boss, just said ‘Don’t worry. Translate it.’ That’s the job. And then one of the Rabobank guys described the Tour as a giant circus ... that was pretty funny!

PEZ: Do you hav a favorite rider?
Marilyn: No ... I can’t really have a favorite in this job!

PEZ: Do you live in France full-time now, or is Chile still home?
Marilyn: I live in France, just outside Paris in fact. I met a French guy, fell in love, got married and I’ve been here just over a year-and-a-half.

PEZ: How does Chile compare to France?
Marilyn: Well, I think really different. The cultures are definitely different. In Chile, I would say that we have a much more ... Italian idea of family. Everyone sits down together on a Sunday and eats together. My experience of France is that that isn’t so important here, for example.

Pez: And what happens after all your hard work on the Tour? Home to sleep for a month?
Marilyn: Holidays! I’m going to Italy with my parents.

With big thanks to Marilyn for her time. She was a big help to Pez when we were at the Tour and it was impressive watching the way she skillfully handled the Astana press conference, putting the brakes on the questions until the translations had been furnished to everyone in the room.

Thanks for everything, Marilyn!


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