GUEUGNON, France — Pascale Schyns was a competitive cyclist and her knowledge of the sport and her vast language skills have resulted in among the most responsible jobs at the Tour de France.
Schyns is the event's translator. After stages each day, Schyns sits next to the stage winner and then the overall race leader. She translates journalists' questions to the riders and then does the same from the riders to the journalists.
Fluent in English, French, Dutch, Spanish, German, and Italian, Schyns first worked for the Tour de France in 1996. But she also worked for individual riders and was employed by the French team Caisse d'Epargne for several years.
But Schyns, who studied several languages while a student at the University of Liege in Belgium, has now returned to work for the Tour de France.
"For me, the translation job is the same as it was years ago," said Schyns, chuckling. "Because mostly they are the same questions and the same answers, although it's different riders."
Through the years, Schyns' job has often been routine, but there have been difficult moments. When Mark Cavendish of Great Britain won stage 5 on Thursday, Schyns sometimes couldn't determine what the emotional rider was saying.
"Sometimes, you can't hear the questions and a rider gives a very short answer," said Schyns. "Yesterday with Cavendish I had a bit of a moment. He has a strange way of thinking and you have listen very carefully to follow what he means."
Schyns recently had her first novel, "Les Survivants de Sallimoc" published. She describes it as a "Harry Potter for everyone else."
And she is not content knowing only six languages. She's also studying Russian.
"The problem is time," said Schynns. "It's very difficult. I can understand some things, but not enough to translate. But I want to try to do it because it is a very strange language and it is interesting."
James Raia on 7/9/2010
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