“Raul may be a soigneur, but that’s just a façade. He’s one of life’s rare human beings that will have you in hysterical laughter in the blink of an eye.”
You come to inGamba knowing you will get massages from a professional soigneur. You think of this as a set of hands and a moment of relaxation. You imagine yourself closing your eyes after a hard ride—a bit of kneading and pressure sorts you out. Instead, you get Raul. Raul the leg whisperer. Raul the clown. Raul the mime. Raul the comedian. Raul the lover. Raul the great. Raul forever.
You fall in love with him. You can’t help it. Neither could I. And he loves you, too. Because that is why he breathes. To take care of people. To take care of you. To take care of me. The word “soigneur” means “one who takes care of others”. This is not just about massage. Everyone who meets Raul will learn that. Everyone who meets Raul will learn something they did not know about how to love each other as human beings. His is a selfless, devoted, invested kind of care.
Raul takes care of my legs every day that I am in Tuscany. On some days he also rides with me, observing the way I climb or shift gears. When we climb with fast groups he puts a hand on my lower back and takes the edge off of my threshold effort. He always asks for permission first. When I run out of water, he hands me a fresh bidon from his cage. When the fireworks go off in the front of the group, he sometimes gets caught up in the fray. Then he sits up, supermans on his saddle and drifts back to me. Laughing.
Later when he works my calves he props my leg up on the table and leans his head against my knee—eyes closed—and disappears into his work. There is a conversation shared between fingers and muscles as he kneads his way into the very details of mypedaling, the shadowy forms of my doubts and insecurities, the secret hopes guarded in my heart. By the time he’s done, he knows more about me than I intended.