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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 July, 2003, 09:24 GMT 10:24 UK
Kissing with confidence
By Matt Majendie

Agnes Carlier (left) with a colleague
Smiling is the very essence of the Credit Lyonnais girls' role
It may not eclipse the joy of donning the yellow jersey but few things can be more welcoming after five hours in the saddle than a peck on the cheek from the Credit Lyonnais girls.

The French bank are the official sponsors of the overall leader's jersey and employ four women each year to greet the race leader on the podium with flowers, a cuddly lion and a flurry of kisses.

Part of that quartet is 22-year-old Alice Carlier, in her second year as a Tour "hostess", as they are known.

And the Lille marketing student is among those hoping for a new rider to dominate the Tour.

She told the BBC Sport website: "It got a little boring kissing Lance Armstrong every day last time and it's already getting boring this year.

"It would make a change to see someone else up there."

This is Alice's third year at the Tour, having been part of the official publicity train in 2001 before being invited personally by the chairman of Credit Lyonnais to take to the podium.

At first, the role was a little daunting.

Once I take off the top, I'm far from being a celebrity
Alice Carlier

"When I did it last year, there were just so many people watching," she recalled.

"That made it pretty nerve wracking which was also the case at the start of this year. But you eventually get used to it and I'm fairly confident with it now."

Alice believes, unlike Armstrong, the 2003 Tour will be her last before she decides on her full-time career.

But for the moment she is revelling in the chance of stardom.

She said: "It's great - for a month I'm almost famous and feel a bit of a star. Although it is a bit strange.

"My family back at home in Lille record it every day on television and keep any newspapers I'm in for me to have a look at when I get back.

"My friends like it too but, once I take off the Credit Lyonnais top and I'm back in Lille, I'm far from being a celebrity. I don't think anyone's ever recognised me."

Brad McGee celebrates his yellow jersey with Carlier (left)
Brad McGee celebrates his yellow jersey with Carlier (left)

Alice and her colleagues' task is not simply about smiling and looking good.

They have just six hours sleep a night during the Tour and spend their time away from the cameras meeting and greeting clients and ensuring the world's press at the Tour have everything they need.

Alice added: "It's not all glamorous and it can be pretty tiring but I'm not complaining. It's great fun and it's only for one month of the year. I can sleep after that."

The four Credit Lyonnais girls take it in turns daily to go onto the winner's podium - two are employed each day.

Both kiss the yellow jersey wearer while one hands over the flowers and the other the cuddly lion.

But those who suggest Alice is simply there to look good get short shrift.

She said: "OK, I didn't know much about cycling before but I follow it all the time now - even away from the Tour."





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