17th November 2022
The Spokesmen Cycling Podcast
EPISODE 313: Tour de Luxe — riding with legends on Ibiza with upscale Leblanq
SPONSOR: Tern Bicycles
HOST: Carlton Reid
GUESTS: Justin Clarke, Mark Cavendish, Monica Dew, Sophie Power, Jamie Criddle, Johan Museeuw, Rob Gitelis, Margaret and Joyce from Taiwan, Matias Bjork, Sean Yates.
TOPICS: Balcony views, posh food, drafting behind legends — listen up for what guests think of their luxury bike break with LeBlanq in Ibiza. Carlton Reid also interviews Mark Cavendish and Johan Museeuw while riding with them on the party island, and Leblanq cofounder Justin Clarke reveals why c-suite execs love rolling with world champions.
Carlton Reid 0:13
Welcome to Episode 313 of the Spokesmen cycling podcast. The show was engineered on Thursday 17th of November 2022.
David Bernstein 0:23
The Spokesmen cycling roundtable podcast is brought to you by Tern bicycles. The good people at Tern are committed to building bikes that are useful enough to ride every day, and dependable enough to carry the people you love. In other words, they make the kind of bikes that they want to ride. Tern has e bikes for every type of rider. Whether you’re commuting, taking your kids to school, or even caring another adult, visit www.tern bicycles.com. That’s t e r n bicycles.com to learn more.
Justin Clarke 1:02
LeBlanq isn’t about hero worshipping. It’s about really good people just getting to know other really good people and having a really good time. That’s it. It’s that simple.
Carlton Reid 1:11
That’s LeBlanq co founder Justin Clarke, introducing himself to guests at the company’s upscale bike break on the party island of Ibiza. LeBlanq marketing materials described the experience as joy riding and, dear listener, I bravely volunteered to discover the accuracy of that pitch. I’m Carlton Reid and I could have kicked back and relaxed on this warm weather winter cycling trip. But, no, I packed my recording equipment so you could hear what it’s like to ride with legends, legends, like Lion of Flanders with Johan Museeuw, and world champions Mark Cavendish and Óscar Freire. I interviewed Johan and Cav while we were riding along.
Mark Cavendish 2:05
Let’s go left. Yeah.
Carlton Reid 2:06
Okay. So, er, you’ve enjoyed it here?
Mark Cavendish 2:11
Yeah. Been nice. ,
Carlton Reid 2:13
Also riding with us on this short break was Ibiza legend Pete Tong whose nightclub session on the final night was the highlight of the weekend for Sigma Sports coowner Ian Whittingham. I recorded the audio with Ian and other company principles, including Rob Gitelis of [Factor] bicycles, who flew from Taiwan to be on the trip. Swedish concrete magnate Matias Bjork told me what it is about LeBlanq that hooked him and you’ll also hear why former pro Monica Dew is so stoked to be a LeBlanc guide.
Monica Dew 2:51
Yeah. Loving it.
Carlton Reid 2:53
You’ll also hear more from Justin Clarke and I also talked with Jamie Criddle, manager of Chevin Cycles branch in Harrogate, who explained why he helps out on these joy rides. And as we were riding along behind Adam Blythe, ultra runner Sophie Power explained it was the inclusivity and no-drop protocols of LeBlanq that saw her back on another trip. And this was a recurring theme. Many of the riders I spoke to were on their second, third and fourth LeBlanq trips. Yes, they’re expensive. But considering you’re riding — and eating — with genuine legends of the sport, LeBlanq could easily charge three times as much for their joyrides and see no drop off in custom. Before we set off in our curated-for-speed groups, I hooked up a mic on event director sportif Sean Yates, who can be heard here discussing logistics with Justin and one of the guides.
Justin Clarke 4:00
Ranges and ratios. Everything else. So
Sean Yates 4:04
Cav’s going in the last last group.
Justin Clarke 4:06
Sean Yates 4:06
Johan’s going in the green groups. Where’s David Hesketh?
Justin Clarke 4:11
Sean Yates 4:14
Yeah. David. So you’re you’re following the green group, following Johan?
David Hesketh 4:21
Yep, that’s right. Yep.
Sean Yates 4:23
You can get a radio which means you will be in contact with the green group.
David Hesketh 4:27
Sean Yates 4:28
So you want the 9am green, which is channel five, and it’s all lined up without without headphones.
Carlton Reid 4:38
Before we set off for the first ride from Hotel Riomar we had to pick up our bikes from the empty hotel opposite where there were mechanics on hand, including Jamie Criddle. So the bikes that we’ve got here. There’s a whole bunch of bikes different bikes here. So what we got we got like customer bikes. We’ve got people who shipped them out?
Jamie Criddle 5:02
Exactly that. We’ve got a real a real mix. We’ve got some hire bikes that have come from Mallorca and hire bikes that have come from just down down the road, a shop five minutes where we’ve got some bikes that we brought out in our vans that belong to customers. And then the rest are bikes that people have brought with themselves, however they’ve arrived.
Carlton Reid 5:22
Are there any electric road bikes here?
Jamie Criddle 5:25
So we’ve got some electric e-bikes, and we’ve got some electric mountain bikes even they’re going to be coming out on the on the ride routes, but not road bikes, not road bikes at the moment.
Carlton Reid 5:38
And where are you from?
Jamie Criddle 5:40
I’m from Harrogate.
Carlton Reid 5:43
In Yorkshire, God’s own country.
Jamie Criddle 5:46
God’s own country. Yes. Yeah, so we we helped the Grantley Hall event just outside Harrogate. And now we’re here in Ibiza enjoying the
Carlton Reid 5:59
You’re saying “we” there so what do you do in Harrogate?
Jamie Criddle 6:04
I work in in bike store Chevin Cycles. Run the store look after some bike fitting.
Carlton Reid 6:11
And are you seeing more electric bikes being sold?
Jamie Criddle 6:13
Absolutely. We have kind of very much a — we’re probably not a million miles off of a 50/50 split now. But that split is interesting that mostly mountain bike, mostly hybrid and cargo bikes.
Carlton Reid 6:28
And cargo bikes what you got?
Jamie Criddle 6:31
Well, Tern is is key brand for for us they
Carlton Reid 6:37
Jamie Criddle 6:38
Yeah, the one that I personally own.
Carlton Reid 6:41
Jamie Criddle 6:42
Yeah, the family love it. The kids love it. The kids refuse to go in the car now.
Carlton Reid 6:49
But not in the rain?
Jamie Criddle 6:51
In the rain.
Carlton Reid 6:52
In the rainy weather and family as in this little kids?
Jamie Criddle 6:55
Yeah. Martha is 9; Ned’s 7. They want to be on the bike all the time. Literally tell us that they feel sick whenever they get in our car. They’re all right in other people’s cars, but they feel sick in our car. So want to go on the e-bike everywhere.
Carlton Reid 7:11
So this is genuinely has been a car killer then for you?
Jamie Criddle 7:15
Yeah, we got our our bike in 2019 in the in the September. And when Mel is going to get in our car in February the battery was dead. And she genuinely didn’t feel she would use the bike that much. And was totally taken with it. It’s a big bike is a big
Tern GSD. So both kids on the back, heavy bike as all the bikes are, but it doesn’t matter because it’s got the got the motor to overcome that. And she felt she wouldn’t be able to manoeuvre and be comfortable with it. But she literally uses it every day, takes the kids to school, goes to work, does the shopping,
Carlton Reid 7:54
Right. That’s a heavy bike. That’s an electric bike, even though you’ve got the power but these bikes here and I can actually see my name on the back there. So Carlton is on the plaque on the back there. So what we’ve got here what what kind of bike is this? I’m gonna put my water bottle into this Specialized.
Jamie Criddle 8:09
And probably double the weight, specialized
Carlton Reid 8:12
Jamie Criddle 8:14
Seven kilo bike, built to be as light as possible, should feel like you’re gliding up the hills, even when the legs don’t want to try SRAM Force E-tap groupset. So nice, simple, straightforward shifting. Yeah, should help you enjoy
Carlton Reid 8:32
but you’re coming out as well. Jamie?
Jamie Criddle 8:33
I’m coming out as well. Leading one of the one of the groups.
Carlton Reid 8:37
But you’re not in your Lycra do I’m presuming you’ve got to rush away?
Jamie Criddle 8:41
Get my shorts and shirts off and put my jersey on and we’ll see you on the road.
Justin Clarke 8:45
We’re in the white and the turquoise. Their right leaders. There are LeBlanq ride leaders that ride with us all over the world. They’ve done multiple events, they know the drill. They are part of our core team. They have radios, they know how to connect with the rest of the riders in the group etcetera very experienced. So just keep it nice and steady. Just ride together, find that tempo and keep you sane. I just want to say welcome Sean Yates.
Sean Yates 9:12
Thank you. Thank you, Justin. So as Justin said, we’re here to obviously enjoy ourselves and stay safe on the flat sections. Try keep it real tight. Roll along tight, so you’re quite compact. There will be a following car behind on the climbs. If you feel a bit frisky then obviously you can push it a little bit you know, but don’t exaggerate. Today it’s fairly simple and straightforward. And the idea is to just roll along. Okay, tomorrow is another kettle of fish. We’ve got 2000 metres climbing on the downhills – do not at any point overtake the lead rider is for the safety Give everyone so that’s that’s about it really just go out there be sensible have fun and look after each other.
Carlton Reid 10:06
Before group went off for that first ride. I chatted to Rob Gitelis of Factor Bikes. So, Rob, we’re outside the W Hotel. Where we’re all picking up the bikes. A lot of people are getting Specialized bikes from from the organisation but you haven’t got a Specialized bike? No, why wouldn’t you ride a Specialized Rob?
Rob Gitelis 10:29
I have good taste. And I’m the owner of Factor.
Carlton Reid 10:34
Exactly. So it’s cool that you’re coming out here on a on a on a trip, you’ve come out here especially for this thing of like a round Europe trip.
Rob Gitelis 10:44
I’ve kind of connected some things together so that I could you know, charge this to the company. But this is really more about pleasure to come in here for this event.
Carlton Reid 10:53
So Factor is doing okay at the moment with some pro teams and
Rob Gitelis 10:57
Yeah, it’s um you know, we grow quite a bit every year we have a number of ladies professional teams, men’s professional teams, but coming out here I really get to meet who was our customer is, you know, I can speak to Chris Froome all day, but he’s not our customer.
Carlton Reid 11:13
Because the last time — talking about Chris Froome and his Israeli team — the last time I talked to you in the flesh was was actually at the Giro d’Italia in Jerusalem. Yes, you’ve come on for a fair bit since then.
Rob Gitelis 11:26
Yeah, you know, back when we met in Jerusalem, we were sponsoring the AG2R French team. And you know, that was very, very good start for Factor but we needed a more international team. So after taking one year out of the world tour, we came back in with Israel Premier Tech, which features Chris Froome and you know, Giacome Nizzolo and some other very fine bike racers
Carlton Reid 11:48
On the bike that you’re riding there. Now what what exactly is that?
Rob Gitelis 11:53
This is a Factor Ostro it’s pretty much the flagship bike of Factor at the moment. And it’s the one used by most of our professional teams.
Carlton Reid 12:03
So just describe what you got here because it looks pretty trick.
Rob Gitelis 12:06
Ah, yeah, it’s pretty much like the ultimate poser bike. It has a Black Inc, five spoke wheels, a new Shimano Dura Ace 12, speed group set, Black Inc handlebars, and then a few kind of like special details on it. That based on my own personality and ability to do something,
Carlton Reid 12:28
because it looks it fit me there, Rob, so if you don’t want to take it back, you know, I could just I could I could help you out there. Yeah, sure. So how much is that? How much is that?
Rob Gitelis 12:37
This bike would be about 15,000.
Carlton Reid 12:39
Rob Gitelis 12:41
Carlton Reid 12:43
That’s kind of okay. It’s not ridiculous.
Rob Gitelis 12:46
Yeah. I mean, some of these Specialized yes, definitely more
Carlton Reid 12:54
And then you’re not the only person from Taiwan here.
Rob Gitelis 12:56
No, these two lovely ladies are
Carlton Reid 12:58
So you come all the way from Taiwan as well, you it was the same flight from where we there’s
Rob Gitelis 13:02
Same flight but we didn’t actually know each other.
Carlton Reid 13:06
No, now, but where was the flight from? From Taipei. So let’s get your names?
And I’m Joyce.
Carlton Reid 13:15
Hi Joyce and Margaret. So how did you find out about this trip?
Oh, we got through Rapha cycling club, there was a introduction there. So we thought it’d be fun.
And yeah, we saw the picture of Ibiza. And then there’s Mark
Carlton Reid 13:40
So Mark Cavendish is a draw. It’s the rider so that is the food, it’s the place or the rider? Sounds as though it’s the rider
It’s a combination, right.
I will say Mark was a big draw.
And Ibiza very exotic.
Carlton Reid 14:06
So how much riding do you do in Taiwan? Because it’s a beautiful island – Formosa, the old name, means beautiful – It’s a wonderful place to ride a bike.
150 to 200.
I do 250 a week.
Carlton Reid 14:19
Mountains. Yeah. Because it’s a mountainous Island. Yeah. Yeah.
Very steep mountain. So we are generally better climbers.
Carlton Reid 14:37
You didn’t bring your own bikes?
We don’t all own bike companies.
Carlton Reid 14:44
So what do you ride when you’re at home?
I have a Pinarello
Yeah, yeah. And I ride Canyon.
Carlton Reid 14:56
So coming on to these bikes as you know, cuz you went out for the ride yesterday. Okay. Yeah,
Yeah. My first bike was Giant. So
Carlton Reid 15:08
That’s kind of the ubiqitious bike on the island. Really, we’ve got King Liu who rides everywhere when he did. Well enjoy your ride today.
Matias Bjork 15:23
I am Matias Bjork, from Sweden. And it’s been a beautiful couple of days cycling here in Ibiza.
Carlton Reid 15:29
And because this is not your first trip, you were in Champagne as well weren’t you?
Matias Bjork 15:33
Yes, we were in Champagne last year, it was supposed to be early, it was postponed due to Covid..
Carlton Reid 15:39
Now, this is a bigger trip than that. So it’s more intimate the last one. But this kind of suggests it’s a good one for having a bigger trip, because you had the Pete Tong last night you had all these things with a small group, it would look a bit weird.
Matias Bjork 15:53
I don’t know might be fun as well. But I think if you want to have the likes of Cavendish, you need to have multiple, it’s very 120 guests. And he’s been cycling in six different groups during the weekend. So we all get to meet him. That’s amazing. And Johan and Oscar and everybody else.
Carlton Reid 16:14
So what’s the draw? Is it everything? Is that a daft question? Or is it no the riders that that that’s what sets this apart, the fact that you can ride with real genuine stars?
Matias Bjork 16:24
The biggest joy is, of course, the rider. Knowing that the hotel is good, the food is good, wine is good, and champagne is good. I think that the combination is quite unique. I don’t know if any other type of events that similar. And I’m mostly a runner, but can see doing an event like this from runners. It doesn’t really work out. For cyclists you can split up in different groups. You can have nice dinners. And it works out. You can even be hungover and go cycling. I wouldn’t do that running maybe.
Carlton Reid 16:56
Okay. And you were telling me before that you have, you sit on the board of two businesses and you have you have a concrete business in in Stockholm.
Matias Bjork 17:08
Yeah, around Sweden many different places.
Carlton Reid 17:12
And you travel a lot with that job?
Matias Bjork 17:15
No, honestly, I don’t actually. I travel maybe to the board meetings, but otherwise I don’t. Business managers do. Which is nice.
Carlton Reid 17:24
Okay. But this is a this is a typical holiday for you? Or is this usual?
Matias Bjork 17:30
No, no, I’d say it’s typical. Every time we go travelling, it’s always a question about finding good training. You go on swim camps, you go on cycling camps, you go running camps. We did one in Mallorca trail running camp only this year, which was great, but not on a level like this. This is so much higher quality, also the camaraderie of having 120 people.
Carlton Reid 17:57
And you looking it’s this kind of thing you’re gonna think right? I’m gonna be doing this twice a year, every single year. Is it sounds like right when so Justin’s just standing over there. It’s gonna be like, Justin, where are you going next? Because ‘sign me up!’
Matias Bjork 18:08
That’s the been the biggest discussion so far. It’s been okay, what’s gonna be the next year’s trip? When are you gonna go to South Africa? Are you gonna go to Italy? You’re gonna go to the US? Yeah, I think so. Looking at sort of what people doing that, and you want to do adventures, you want to experience things, but at the same time, want to stay in a nice hotel, and have good food. So the combination is perfect.
Carlton Reid 18:30
Johan, we’re here on Ibiza, riding along. This is your second LeBlanq trip because you went to Champagne. So tell me what do you think about these LeBlanq trips?
Johan Museeuw 18:44
Now my third, fourth event with the LeBlanq. Last year in the Champagne area, it was together with Eddie Merckx, legend. So this is really a luxury holiday on the bike. So it’s different than other companies. So I go a lot because this is my job what I’m doing around the world. So I’m freelance. I’ve also my own company, Museeuw Cycling Experience. But LeBlanq is different than everyone.
Carlton Reid 19:19
This is potentially are you going to be potentially having one in Flanders as well?
Johan Museeuw 19:25
Yes, last week, we are have done a reconnaissance of something to do in Flanders next year.
Carlton Reid 19:32
Very cobbly, cobbles, lots of pavé?
Johan Museeuw 19:36
Not always but if you go to Flanders, you have to do the famous hill Paterberg, Koppenberg and also some section and cobblestones. So, yeah, it will be fun next year. We start in the. No, I can’t say where we started because still a secret.
Sophie Power 19:54
I’m Sophie power.
Carlton Reid 19:56
Well, you’ve been running here because you’re normally a runner. But you’re doing incredibly well at cycling.
Sophie Power 20:02
I’m a runner enough to try and excuse my descending skills but I kept up. I kept up. I was watching Adam and his lines. Yeah, I was like right I’m gonna follow him and then kept up.
Carlton Reid 20:14
Yeah, follow somebody who knows what they’re doing
Sophie Power 20:17
in terms of like life achievement I got down hill without getting dropped.
Carlton Reid 20:24
Is that the draw for you the rider star riders is the draw for you. What’s the draw?
Sophie Power 20:31
Time away from my kids. No. That’s so this is my 40th birthday present, hubby’s a cyclist. We love Justin. We love what they do. We love food. We love enjoying cycling, like it’s great cross training for me. But I think the events are, as a cyclist I’m nervous. I’m nervous. Like, I don’t know everything. And these are the most inclusive events because no-one gets dropped. They look after your bike. They take, I think for women they take out a lot the uncertainties you have about cycling and is that you can ride your bike and met some amazing people and not so riders. Everyone else.
Ian Whittingham 21:14
Carlton Reid 21:15
Ian, that sounds like a groan of happiness, that you were finishied, a groan of happiness is age related?
Ian Whittingham 21:23
Yeah, I think I think it’s age related. And yeah. Sitting down after a very lovely, what, 50 odd miles of Ibiza lanes.
Carlton Reid 21:33
That’s Ian Whittingham the co owner, co founder of Sigma Sports, the amazing kinda London bike shop. And you’ve just shown us your Strava there. We’ve basically done half of the island. That’s a small place, but quite varied, and quite green, isn’t it?
Ian Whittingham 21:53
Very green, roads are lovely and quiet. Yeah, it’s like everyone in the group is asking ourselves, why have we not come here before cycling? It’s amazing.
Carlton Reid 22:02
Because it’s Mallorca isn’t it is where you know, people go. Yeah. And they deliberately avoiding going to Mallorca for that reason.
Ian Whittingham 22:09
Yeah. coming somewhere like that. Yeah. I came here before many years ago for a stag weekend. So my memories of Ibiza are quite different to what I’ll leave with this time round,
Carlton Reid 22:20
but the fact there was somebody there when you were 20. When you were 25. Yeah. How long ago was that was
Ian Whittingham 22:27
26 years ago.
Carlton Reid 22:28
But there was somebody there at the same time. Who’s here today as well?
Ian Whittingham 22:31
Oh, yeah. Right. So yeah, so when we were here we were treated to Pete Tong, doing doing a set at next door to Cafe Del Mar. And while we were drinking mojitos, and yeah, as you say, he’s here on this trip. Not seen him yet. Now, he has a cyclist as well as obviously a famous DJ.
Carlton Reid 22:47
You were saying he’s one of your customers.
Ian Whittingham 22:48
He is a customer of ours as well, when he’s in the UK,
Carlton Reid 22:52
will actually say you’re you are a founder of a pretty well known bike shop in the UK. Certainly if you’re in the South East of England. So
Ian Whittingham 23:02
Yeah, so so that I’m founder of Sigma Sports. So we’ve been we’ve been going now for 30 years. And I’ve been involved with with LeBlanq since its inception, actually. So it had a bit of a bit of a stalled start because of the pandemic. But yeah, I’ve been involved with Justin since the beginning. I did I went and did the Isle of Wight event last year and was just really blown away by the quality of the event. I mean, truly, these are, I think the best cycling trips I’ve I’ve been on. I’ve been doing trips
Carlton Reid 23:38
And you go on lots of industry trips.a
Ian Whittingham 23:39
Yeah, indeed. Yeah. But in terms of like, yeah, cycling events. It’s just every every detail is thought of staff are amazing. It’s yeah, it’s really fantastic.
Carlton Reid 23:49
And you told me before that you used to race with Justin.
Ian Whittingham 23:51
I did yeah. And his brother back in the day his brother, Russell. Yes. So yeah, I’ve known, Justin for well, yeah. 40 years. Sorry, 30 years.
Carlton Reid 23:59
So this is before you created the bike shop?
Ian Whittingham 24:02
Yes, just before, when I was when I was a teenager, and race racing back in the day and then I hadn’t seen Russell for years actually. And then he popped up say three years three or four years ago with this with this idea and mixing his passion for food and cycling and I think you’d really hit a sweet spot
Carlton Reid 24:19
Is it fair to say that the average or certainly some of the customers that you’re attracting in your shop are just ideal. But here because you sit let’s face it, you’re a high end shop. And these these people here are high-end consumers.
Ian Whittingham 24:37
They are it’s obviously you know, it’s not it’s not a it’s not a cheap trip to come on. But you know, it’s you can when you’re here you can see why the the hotels are great. The catering is great. But yeah, I mean, this is this is an absolute sweet spot for us in terms of the the kind of customer demographic
Carlton Reid 24:55
It’s a cross fertilisation and so you’re selling you know the trip to them. They’re selling the bike shop to them.
Ian Whittingham 25:01
Very much so. Yeah, so that’s something is one of the reasons we got involved just in the beginning was to, to, to be able to access our customers and tell them all about LeBlanq and sell a few trips for him in return for some support for their riding needs in return. So yes, it’s a great
Carlton Reid 25:18
ecosystem. Because there’s, I mean, there’s there’s an international audience I mean, there’s there’s the founder of Factor is here. Yeah, it’s kind of strange. I was talking to Rob before and then you got two Taiwanese ladies who come all the way from Taiwan.
Ian Whittingham 25:36
A ouple from Austin, Texas. Yeah, it’s a it’s a quite a diverse range of people, which is which is fantastic. And also, you know, it’s also great to see so many women cycling here as well. It’s definitely a really fast growing part of part of the sport.
Carlton Reid 25:55
I thought we’d see more electric road bikes now. How big is electric bikes in your shop?
Ian Whittingham 26:02
Yeah, the terrain here is just is made for an electric road bike. It really is, you know, up up and down all day. But yeah, I don’t think I’ve seen one yet actually. But for us as a business I let them electric bikes now make up about 30% of our bike sales. And actually, you know, we’re now appealing to different audiences we have our work we have our our heritage and history and road biking but we’ve also embraced the electric bike revolution and we’ve opened dedicated store for that in Kingston. So yeah, no doubt about it. You know, electric bikes are the kind of future of the cycling industry
Carlton Reid 26:34
Pretty much within about 10, 20 years hold of the industry and then we’ve got like legacy bikes. Yeah, he’s a legacy bikes. Riding on me every bike is going to have not not just one of the the Shimano gears and stuff that are gonna have electronics. It’s just gonna be there’s gonna be some form of propulsion on everybody.
Ian Whittingham 26:59
Yeah. Yeah. I think you’re exactly what they’ll come a day when you start talking about electric bikes are not just be bikes that happen to have some kind of a propulsion, as you say,
Carlton Reid 27:08
I mean that’s been good for the industry?
Ian Whittingham 27:11
Carlton Reid 27:12
Perception price point, you know, now apart year, of course bikes got £2500 because an electric bike costs £2500. So that brings, like, raises the whole ships and like every ship has risen with
Ian Whittingham 27:23
absolutely, it’s gonna. Yeah, it’s huge for the industry. Absolutely huge for the industry. And yeah, hence why we couldn’t, we couldn’t, you know, despite our roots, being in road biking, we couldn’t I couldn’t stand by and just watch that train leave the station, if you like, we have to, you know, want to get involved. I ride an e-bike to work myself every day.
Carlton Reid 27:44
British bicycle industry did miss it. But they certainly weren’t in that day early. There was a whole there was a whole period of time when bike shops famously didn’t have electric bikes. Really didn’t want to get in touch with them. And then you found a whole bunch of electric bike shops came out. And there was that kind of ecosystem. Has that changed? There? Was it my job said no, no, we weren’t.
Ian Whittingham 28:07
Yeah, it’s definitely changing. You are right. It was it. There was like really a handful of ebike specialists to begin with. And then a bit of hesitation about you know, is this gonna, is this going to take off? But right now? Yeah, I think most most bike shops are going to probably have at least half of their half of their bikes on the on the shop floor are going to be electric. And imagine.
Carlton Reid 28:28
Specialized famously did take a while. I mean, they’re fabulous bikes, you know, designed in Switzerland, you know, the whole whole unit. That’s Specialized got that, but it took a while to actually get into it. So was that something that bike shops waiting for? Or waiting for the big brands come in with some sweet bikes? Cos they weren’t fantastic looking bikes before.
Ian Whittingham 28:48
They weren’t. I mean, the very first e-bikes, in fact, you know, anecdotally on the street, where are our store is in Hampton Wick? We had two e-bike stores on that street 10 years ago, but both were just ahead of … They were before their time and the bikes were very, very much like a regular bike with a battery strapped on it and a clunky motor. So yeah, absolutely. It’s only really in the last I’d say kind of five years and that’s that they’ve really started to to look start to look better, perform better have much better ranges and charging times. And yes, the big manufacturers now are all embracing it. And, you know, Specialized are definitely one of the leading, leading manufacturers of e. Is certainly certainly our biggest brand. Ebike in the business is Specialized I think every every brand you speak to, if you talk about 2024, 2025 and they expect the vast majority their business to be electric. And regular acoustic bikes, as we call them, I think will definitely become a diminishing part of part of the range.
Carlton Reid 29:51
Is that a bad thing?
Ian Whittingham 29:54
It’s it’s it’s evolution, isn’t it? It’s I think as long as you know what, as long as people out on two wheels, then I don’t mind what they’re riding. You know, just discovering the joys of cycling.
Carlton Reid 30:05
I captured that interview with Ian after a day in the saddle, but grabbed this one with former elite cyclist Monica Dew as we were riding along. Monica, who rode for Storey Racing until 2020 is now a cycling coach, and one of the expert guides on these LeBlanq joy rides. So, Monica, we’re here on the climb back to the hotel on the second day. And you’ve been leading what group are you your blue? Yeah. Okay.
Monica Dew 30:37
So 100k each day. So we got here on Wednesday, did a prologue on Thursday. Yesterday’s ride. Really lovely, very short, sharp climbs. Today’s ride. A lot more rolling. Loved it. Having a laugh, having a bit of fun.
Carlton Reid 31:01
So, Monica, how did you get this gig? Because it is a sweet gig.
Monica Dew 31:04
It is a pretty good deal to be honest. Yeah, so I used to race. I’m really good friends with Adam Blythe.
Carlton Reid 31:11
Everybody’s good friends with Adam Blythe.
Monica Dew 31:13
Everybody’s friends with Adam Blythe.
You can’t not be. Yeah, and he just said just in this set up. So I joined. Yeah, the rest is history really like second year in and it’s pretty special. Very fortunate to call it my job
Carlton Reid 31:34
Riding a bike is also Mark Cavendish’s job. But when that involves nosy journalists asking him questions, he’s famously less keen. So when we went for a quick resort ride together, I didn’t pump him for any exclusives. I just wanted to know what he thought about LeBlanq’s formula. Okay. So you’ve enjoyed it here?
Mark Cavendish 32:03
Yeah. It’s been nice. It’s good, innit. Just riding with other people that like cycling. Bit of music from Pete Tong yesterday.
Carlton Reid 32:13
Yeah, that was pretty cool.
Mark Cavendish 32:14
Good, like. So you’ve enjoyed it?
Carlton Reid 32:18
Yeah, it’s been fantastic. Now we nearly knocked into each other there. So that’s a good point. How are you like riding with with, with us because we’re amateurs, we don’t know where to go. And we’re not very fast. So how, how do you find that?
Mark Cavendish 32:32
It’s riding, it doesn’t matter. That’s the thing about cycling you’re free to go where you want, with who you want, when you want.
Carlton Reid 32:37
Getting the chance to ride with Cav and the other cycling legends was clearly the major draw for most people on this not-cheap LeBlanq trip. And after ended, I sat down on a beach sofa with company cofounder, Justin Clarke. This is bigger than all of your previous trips. The vibe is gonna be different anyway, because it’s Ibiza and it’s not Champagne. So it’s not that kind of vibe.
Justin Clarke 33:07
Carlton Reid 33:10
It’s a more laid back vibe. So that suits this trip anyway, because just five in with Pete Tong wouldn’t be good.
Justin Clarke 33:26
Yeah, so great question. The, you just described two factors that the first factor that dictates the size of a LeBlanq event is venue. So we wanted to come somewhere that felt really special, and also have all of the operational elements that we needed, space for the bikes, space for the care, space for the people; there are many things that we need. So the Riomar hotel, absolutely ticks all the boxes, and it has 114 rooms. So 114 rooms, and so OK, so this could be a much bigger event than we’ve done before. And then because we’re in Ibiza it’s yeah, obviously we’re about food, we’re about cycling, we’re about camaraderie, relaxation, having a good time but in Ibiza you have to do music as well, because it is in is in the blood of the
Carlton Reid 34:20
Pretty fluky that the man who was most, you know, note noted for being a bit of creating the scene really almost on Ibiza is a cyclist.
So that’s magic. That’s perfect.
Justin Clarke 34:34
Yeah, so a colleague of mine when I was at Endeavour, a guy called David Levy, head of electronic dance music for William Morris, he was the one who told me a few years ago, that if ever you do an event in Ibiza, and it’s cycling, you’ve got to get Pete Tong involved because he loves cycling. So as soon as we decided we’re definitely going to come here. David got a phone call from me and said, we’re going to do it and he asked Pete. Obviously, bringing all this together is very complicated business: dates, availablity.
Carlton Reid 35:09
Cos you couldn’t do this event in July.
Justin Clarke 35:11
Carlton Reid 35:21
I guess I’m where I was going for with that question is because you got pros here, you got you got okay got ex-pros who are coming too, but they’re probably going to be commentating anyway. Absolutely. So your your window of when you can do these trips are actually narrower than if you are just to say a holiday company.
Justin Clarke 35:36
Carlton Reid 35:37
You can’t do the pro season.
Justin Clarke 35:39
So we, well, actually, you can, it’s every event that we create, it starts with the place. And then we build out the narrative of the event based around the place. The professionals who are current, and the broadcasters who are working on the Grand Tours are focused on the Grand Tours when the Grand Tours are on. There’s a whole bunch of people who love cycling and food, who are massive names. Chris Hoy, for example, who July is actually quite quiet, because there’s no track season going on in July. So Chris Hoy, you’ll notice, every July event we have is our main man. And we have something very special planned for Chris for next year. And this one actually, I have a message message by by Chris couple of times was was Ibiza looks amazing. Looks amazing. It’s like yes, he says, Please really come next here. And the answer is yes. Alright.
Carlton Reid 36:37
So your name dropping there, but that’s fine. Because you know, everybody, yes, you’re allowed to to name drop. Because you aren’t like an agent for some, right? So give it give us just a very brief cuz we have had you on the show before. So let’s just get a brief overview of where Justin comes from.
Justin Clarke 36:54
Yeah. So my background, I was a very average domestic professional in 97, 98, 99. And I, I did the riding that I wanted to do. And to be honest, I didn’t want to be on a doping programme and every other pro that was in a team where it was on a doping programme, so I had no interest in that. So I just wanted to see how good I could be. And the answer was averagely good. And then I got into live events and live events has been my last 20 odd years. And for about 10 years, I was the Global Head of Culinary for IMGg which is a sports marketing agency. But culinary is like a, you know, chefs were becoming superstars. They’re rock stars, and I was working with many of the best chefs in the world. René Redzepi, Gordon Ramsay Heston Blumenthal, etc, etc. So, I know that that world, I built a brand, from scratch with Taste, started with Taste of London and began Taste in 20 cities around the world. And I’ve always loved the interaction with consumers. And talent. I much prefer the word talent over celebrity. I don’t like celebrity, because often you can have a vacuous celebrity, you can have someone that’s famous just for being famous, whereas I like working with people who are the best at what they do. So champion cyclists, amazing chefs, or those kind of people. I love working with them because they’re inspirational. And they’re inspirational to me, but they’re also inspirational to the visitors and the guests that come on these these trips. And you can feel it. When you’re there. It’s like, Wow, I can’t believe I am in the presence of greatness. So, so yeah. So in the representation space, there was only one person that I’ve managed, I say manage rather than representative. And it’s Bradley Wiggins.
Carlton Reid 38:57
Do you want to go there? On why he’s not here?
Justin Clarke 39:03
Yeah. Brad is this amazing guy. And he’s very complicated. And a can of worms, a bit of a can of worms got opened up In an interview that I’d arranged with Mens’ Health magazine, and yeah, a whole programme of activity that have been built around him unravelled with a no-show, but no-show was because of fragility. And I love him. I’ve known Brad since I was 12. And I do love him. He’s, he’s complicated. But I don’t I don’t have any intention of representing anyone else whether share for talent. This is this is about building the LeBlanq business and created experiences like these that people fall in love with.
Carlton Reid 40:03
So you are quite rightly able to name drop because you do know people, you’ve known Brad’s since he was 12 so that’s a good name drop. But then you’ve got somebody else who could do that maybe with other with different people, maybe even that you wouldn’t perhaps not as know as well. And that’s Sean Yates. So is he a lynchpin in that he opens lots of doors that I’m not saying you wouldn’t be able to open those doors. But he really opens certain doors on the professional side, if Sean says, this is the event, people go, ‘Oh, it must be right.’
Justin Clarke 40:38
Yes. Sean is probably one of the most respected people, human beings in cycling. He’s adored for good reason, because he’s just an amazing man.
Carlton Reid 40:50
He’s famous for being a tough guy. Well, when you when you meet him, he’s a he’s a softy.
Justin Clarke 40:55
He’s, he’s actually famous as a writer famous for helping other riders, his whole thing he was the original, super domestic. He was the rider that was normally strong, and would destroy himself at the services of other people. And although he won things, he won the obviously the 1988 trial in the Tour de France. And he won. The reason, obviously, the reason why he won time trials was because he’s so good. And in the territory, you can’t ride for someone else unless it’s a time trial, team time trial. So he won time trials. But you know, he’d probably maybe he lacked a bit of self belief or he lacked a bit of self confidence or something. It could be argued that he could have won more races had he been more selfish, but the reason why everyone loves him is because he isn’t selfish. He is a straight down the line, brilliant, decent human being.
Carlton Reid 41:50
So what’s he doing for you apart from opening his wonderful contacts book he’s coming out of here he’s recceing things for you. He’s like looking at that’s got a pothole, we can’t go on that route. Yeah. That kind of is it? Is it that kind of granular?
Justin Clarke 42:02
So Sean is a stakeholder in LeBlanq, so there are two people that I wanted to be integral to the growth of LeBlanq one is Sean Yates on the cycling side and the other is Ashley Palmer Watts on the chef side. Both have stakes in the business. And it’s very deliberate. Because where Sean is highly respected by virtually every rider of the last 40 years, Ashley Palmer Watts is respected by almost every chef in the world. And I’ve worked with virtually every top chef in the world actually is a top chef in the world, and therefore there’s a different relationship. And then it’s one of when we work with the talent and you’ve seen this. We’re not booking the talent to come and just do a job and go again. The talent are integral to the narrative and the story and the experience. Nieves was on the right. Michelin star chef from several was at Barrafina Barra fina was obviously sensational restaurant that became a restaurant chain. She’s beautiful human being a member of the RCC, she rides a bike, she cooks the food. Pete Tong is the ultimate DJ, he’s out on the ride on Sunday. It’s these people are integral to the experience. They’re not just a booking. If they were just a booking, they just kind of do what they normally do. They fly in, they fly out. That’s it. But that’s not what.
Carlton Reid 43:29
So this is not a bike holiday. So there are lots of companies that do bike holidays where you could come riding. So you’re you’re offering something extra to that. I mean, look, there’s the other companies that do food as well, and bikes, but you’re offering the riders, and very, very, very close access to the riders. So close, you are following them, you know, an inch away from their their back wheel down Scary, scary. The sense as I found out that that’s where you’re coming from that is that is that that element is the riders is what people? What do you think people are coming for?
Justin Clarke 44:09
Tthey’re coming for escapism, we do luxury escapism on bikes, that’s what we do. The riding is joy riding. we’ve coined this expression of joy riding and it could be, you know, technically joy riding is stealing cars, but joy riding for us is riding your bike for pleasure, whatever your version of pleasure is. And you know, because you’ve been on the rides, we have the black group, but the black group was smashing themselves to bits to ride as fast as hard as they can, because that is their pleasure. And then we have our green group, which half of them were riding the bikes, and they are just take you there drinking in the scenery, because that is their pleasure.
Carlton Reid 44:52
And how do you do that? This is what I’ve found very, very, there’s many things about this. I’ve found impressive, obviously all the things you’ve already mentioned. But what I found really impressive compared to .. because I’ve done many, many bike tour trips with a variety of companies — is the way that you’ve somehow got people in the right group, I would say 95% of the time. And yes, you’ve got a questionnaire. But people probably don’t actually fill questionnaires in properly anyway, sp how are you, how are you physically matching people to those groups and getting it so spot on, you know, from the get go not having to ditch people or people up?
Justin Clarke 45:32
Yeah, so LeBlanq has its own concierge. And Lisa, who, sadly she was, she was ill on a pretty critical day. And there’s like, it’s tragic for her. And it was kind of difficult for us. But Lisa builds relationships with every guest. And the relationship is not just a fill in the form. It’s have a conversation with a person. And we’re interested in the guests that are coming, we do our research,
Carlton Reid 45:59
Are you looking at their Strava profiles? Like I’m in black? Yeah, no, you know,
Justin Clarke 46:05
Wo what we know to be true. And here’s the thing. One of the reasons why we’re pretty good at getting right, is that we take in multiple pieces of information, and we make our own judgement. Because if we just asked the person,
they’d get it wrong. because I’m not being
sexist, but many men over exaggerate. Women under estimate.
Carlton Reid 46:29
Yeah, that’s why I was definitely coming at it. From that point of view, I slightly different from me, in that I was in many groups, and that was fine. And I’m I’m doing it for different reasons. I’m doing it for work, I’m trying to photograph at the same time. And so I couldn’t go out in the black group, because within three seconds I’d be left behind. If I wasn’t doing those things, I would like to think I could keep up with them. But I probably couldn’t. So I have been in, you know, it was just perfect. That group is just because it wasn’t stressed out. It was just it was it was mellow. So it was a joy ride. For me. And I haven’t heard of anybody here saying they, you know, they’ve gone above and beyond what they ever thought they could ever do. It’s just been rightful. So that’s, that’s a part of this, which you’re getting absolutely spot on.
Justin Clarke 47:14
Thank you. It’s so our final piece of the test to work out which group people should be in is the prologue. Yes, the prologue is a short ride, and it deliberately has a hill in it. And as you can see on the hill, that are any question, who should be in which group?
Carlton Reid 47:30
Why was that? Black? They must have seen me storming.
Justin Clarke 47:34
Because you were clearly yes, that’s, that’s the final piece of the jigsaw, we, we work very hard to make sure that the experience is as close to faultless as it can be. Yeah, you know, it’s there are so many data points now, that, that people want to share about what they’re doing that, you know, if you’re bothered, and we are we use those all those different fantasies, but it’s not just how good someone is. It’s what kind of what is a joy ride for them? You know, because some people, what not some, many people are here as couples. And the couples either want to ride together, and therefore one or rather, the non rider is on any bike to be able to keep up at the same pace, or are very happy to just go in different groups or owners, you know, they know that they can’t ride the same point. But they both want to ride for themselves. Yes. So they’re like multiple factors of what makes up a hazard. Right? And therefore, that’s why we have concierge, because when you really understand the people you can then deliver to what they’re looking for. And LeBlanq is not a race, it’s not a fixed ride. It’s a ride for pleasure for the people who are coming. And that’s that’s kind of it, you know, if we, if we had riders who are all semi professional, we probably put in 160 kilometre route, probably. But we had we had Brian Briggs, who is still what is it? He’s the Masters cyclocross champion, so he’s like an amazing rider. But we still thought now 130 kilometres, that’s enough hours in the saddle. You don’t you don’t want people to come back broken because you still got all the other bits. The meal and the recharge and everything else.
Carlton Reid 49:23
So you’re not carbo loading. You are gourmet loading. Do cyclists end up hungry on your trips?
Justin Clarke 49:34
No, no, the key meal, which is carbohydrates is the meal we give them as soon as they get back from the ride. That is pasta salad, potato salad that is carbohydrates, but it’s consumed almost without thinking. It’s a callback for the ride hungry and you walk in, you get back to the hotel, you walk in you sit down still in your sweaty cycling kit and you you have a really delicious immediate buffet meal. And that is what takes the edge away. And that’s what actually puts the calories back in from the calories who really burn, meaning that the meal they have in the evening you’re not starving, hungry. So you’re not just in your heart just need to eat this, you’re appreciating the meal. And the meal is about culture, is about location. It’s about the seasonality. And we don’t want people to be eating because they’re ravernous, we want them to be eating, again, for pleasure.
Carlton Reid 50:27
So how much are people paying? I know, I could go on the website and I could find that out. But you tell me on the tape. How much are people paying for this, including say, in addition and give us the fee that would pay to hire the beautiful Specialized Athos that I had? And and maybe if I was coming out here, it was just me the single room supplement so how much that’s a package that’s an average package how much would that cost me?
Justin Clarke 50:50
So the the average spend across the board is around about £3000. The price the price for two sharing is £2750. The single room supplement is £750. And the bike you can use for the whole weekend, a Specialized Athos is £250. Or we also did the service for exactly the same £250 where we bring your bike from the UK and you can ride your bike without the hassle of using the bike bag and everything else.
Carlton Reid 51:21
I’ve seen the photographs the bikes were brought in in the same van as the beer that’s it yeah so you see the picture by osmosis sucked up the beer. Now, I don’t want you to take this the wrong way and I can well appreciate if you go ‘I don’t want to answer that Carlton’ bu, and I asked ask you the price for this for a reason, because some people will go ‘how much?’ and I don’t go like that I go well for what you get. That is phenomenal value for money — for FFS — considering you know the people who just behind me still in a lounge you can see Adam Blyhe. I can see Matt Stephens, I can see your Andrew your photographer and Cav was there but he’s no longer there. So we’re still surrounded by a whole bunch of incredible people that cyclists such as me and you get very excited about. So it’s not expensive, really, at the end of the day. Beautiful hotel, beautiful route, 45 staff you’ve got the guides, everything is on the bring the chef’s out from lunch all this is just that is phenomenal value for money. Even if people think it’s a lot of money, it’s still phenomenal value for money. My question is, using the arithmetic of how many people you’ve had here, how much you must be paying people to be here because the riders aren’t doing this for you know for a stick of toffee, how are you making money?
Justin Clarke 52:47
It’s um, I’ll tell you how we are. We’re very good at being extremely efficient with how we work with our staff and our talent and our brand partners. One of the things that is integral to LeBlanq is the association with our brand partners. Almost everybody here will have a really close affinity now to Laurent-Perrier champage. Everybody here will understand that Cold Bath beer is a beautiful beer. They our brand partners and they are very intelligently integrated into the overall experience
Carlton Reid 53:25
Are they are different brand partners for different trips?
Justin Clarke 53:28
So we have global brand partners. Okay, so our brand partners are there this year, they’ve been talking about contracts and we’re going to go into multiple year contracts. So it’s an overall strategic programme but also we’re very good, I don’t want to give the two weeks secrets away but we are booking a hotel at low season
Carlton Reid 53:53
This is this is totally end ofseason if not there might not even be open everyone here kind of date we are
Justin Clarke 54:00
That there are many things that we do to be extremely efficient. But yeah, it’s
Carlton Reid 54:07
Even so yes and I appreciate that and I can imagine yes you’re getting sponsorship from so it’s it’s it should be £4000 or £5000 per trip for you to make money
Justin Clarke 54:21
You sound like myus board.
Carlton Reid 54:26
You know, I am not in the hospitality business. So I don’t know exactly what discount to get with what is and then how much your staff getting paid. But just as a former entrepreneur, who who tried to make money in publishing, and using all my arithmetic skills, which isn’t many is still like that’s that’s still a tight margin. You’re on even with those those things. So you’re amortising this across all of the trips across the whole time and you’re hoping people will come back. And then they’re your your valuable customers. So is that the way you looking at it as a as a this is this is a brand building? Yes, across the year?
Justin Clarke 55:12
So our first experience, so this event here average about £3000, the first event that we had, which was in Perthshire with Ashley cooking was £1800. The price. That is there’s two things, there’s price and value. The value is extremely good. The price as who you are, you see that extraordinarily high or is really cheap. That depends on how much money you have. So we are in the building process of proving concepts. We had 140 people here. And if I told the guests in advance all of the detail of exactly where it is they go, there’s no way you can possibly give me an extraordinary experience for 140 people. It’s just not possible. But we have. So we are very happy to prove ourselves and to build and to grow with a long term, medium long term strategy. The number of people who have been blown away by the fact that Leblanq has its own Master of Wine. And we are very good at choosing.
Carlton Reid 56:26
Justin Clarke 56:27
Yes. David Hesketh. He is one of 320 Master of Wine in the UK. And every trip, he always selects the wines. We have a three Michelin star chef who is overseeing every single dish that goes out, no matter who’s cooks it, we have standards, you can charge four or five or six or 7000 pounds when people believe you to be true. And you’d have to prove it first
Carlton Reid 56:55
Is that you saying you’re gonna put your prices up? I’m gonna put it the other way ‘Get on the trip quick because the prices are gonna go up you know in three trips time, do it now.’
Justin Clarke 57:07
Thank you. I like I like good value, you can still have a very high price with very good value. So we will always be good value but the price will be reflected with experience.
Carlton Reid 57:20
Thanks Justin Clark of LeBlanq there and thanks to all of those who talked to me in Ibiza. This has been episode 313 of the Spokesmen podcast. Show notes and more can be found at the-spokesmen.com. The next show will be an interview with author Hannah Reynolds and will be out within the next 10 days or so. Meanwhile, get out there and ride!
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