What's a (super) domestique in cycling?

What's a (super) domestique in cycling?
Primoz Roglič's domestiques in action

Domestiques are the life blood of a cycling team. Teams on a whole are comprised at the World Tour level of thirty riders, of which six to eight are sent to races depending on the start list size of the race. Teams will generally have one, two or three riders from that team as potential candidates for the general classification (GC) win, with the rest of the roster either being filled out with sprinters or domestiques.

Domestiques aid the leader to perform better in races, by protecting them from the wind, going back to the team car to get bottles for them, or stopping and helping them pace back to the peloton if they crash or need to take a nature break. If the team needs a rider in the break to protect against GC threats they'll also do that depending on the team's needs. They're the selfless workhorses of the team, and unfortunately also paid the least amongst the team.

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That being said, there's some domestiques that are paid exceedingly well and are colloquially known as super domestiques. These domestiques are able to climb superbly well, unlike your average domestique, and could almost be general classification riders in their own right.

Names that come to mind are Marc Soler, Sepp Kuss, and potentially Jan Tratnik. Since there are only so many riders in the peloton that fit the bill, they're paid well (750 to over a million), and hoarded by the most well funded teams.

It's worth noting that domestiques are often given opportunities for leadership early in the season during the lesser known races such that they can be "locked down" to work for the leader at the large grand tours later in the season. They may also be gifted stages by their leader to earn their dedication. Some suggest Wout van Aert did this with Christophe LaPorte in 2023 at Gent-Wevelgem.

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During grand tours domestiques are also  given the opportunities to go for stage wins. A good example is if they've been forced to ride in the break by the team and if it doesn't look like the break will be caught, they'll be given free reign.

Or if a stage just suits them perfectly, and the team's GC leader has enough support from the other domestiques they may be given the go ahead. Or they may just go for it even without the go ahead, if you're Marc Soler that is 🙃.

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