ADVERTISEMENT

innovation

Ride to Ibiza with royalty on a c-suite luxury cycling holiday

ADVERTISEMENT

Sharing a luxury cycling holiday with cycling kings, including Tour de France icons, is not about hero worship, said Justin Clarke, co-founder of specialist travel agency LeBlanq.

Instead, he insisted, “It’s about really cool people who know really cool people and have a really good time.”

These good times don’t come cheap. The four-day vacation I took to the party island of Ibiza cost $3,500; additional travel. Pricey, but – despite life’s squalor – good value for money considering the luxurious ocean-view rooms, signature cuisine served by super chefs, and riding shoulder-to-shoulder with sporting legends.

I told Clarke that if he charged four times that for what LeBlanc described as “joyfulness,” he wouldn’t lose any business.

“You sound like my board,” he agreed.

That board includes investor Simon Mottram, founder of luxury cycling apparel company Rapha (a lifestyle brand sold for $240 million in 2017 to the heirs of the Walmart dynasty), and Tim Ashton, director of the London-based creative agency Antidote.

A press statement from LeBlanq in February announced a secret capital injection and said the new investors supported “experience disruption at the high end of the market.”

LeBlanc is not alone; There are many luxury bike travel providers, for example American Trek Travel, but Clarke’s UK company not only offers bespoke spandex (Rafa, of course) and blown-out gastronomy, but most importantly up close and personal with choice, it also offers connectivity. Olympic gold medalist Sir Chris Hoy and Tour de France yellow jersey winners Miguel Indurain and Eddy Merckx.

During his remarkable career in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Merckx won thirty-four individual stages of Le Tour, a record he shares with Britain’s Mark Cavendish. Cavendish – still riding professionally – is also on LeBlanc’s roster of riders, including the Tour of Ibiza.

“Everyone calls it Merckx’s record,” Cavendish said during an evening talk in Ibiza, “but it’s not Merckx’s record; it is U.S file.”

Cavendish sat next to me at the last buffet of the trip, and we’d ridden together a few times before. On this trip, I rode with the “Leeuw van Vlaanderen” Johan Museeuw, three-time winner of the Paris-Roubaix one-day classic, and stepped into the feet of three-time World Champion Oscar Freire during a coffee stop. the champion.

At next year’s Tour of Ibiza, the star rider is Geraint Thomas, winner of the 2018 Tour de France. Ireland will be led on a joyride by Sean Kelly, one of the winningest cyclists of the 1980s.

Clark has a good contact book (he was a professional rider in the 1990s), but says LeBlanc’s success in recruiting experienced riders is due to the involvement of Sean Yates, a former teammate of Lance Armstrong. Yates later moved into bike management. In 2012, he was the sporting director guiding Sir Bradley Wiggins to his victories in the Tour de France and the Olympic time trial.

“Sean is probably one of the most respected people in cycling,” said Clark.

“He loves.”

Yates is a stakeholder in LeBlanq and serves as the company’s sports director.

“Hold on tight,” he told guests as he walked out of Pax from the Hotel Riomar in the Ibiza town of Santa Eularia des Riu.

“If you feel a little swell,” he said, “of course you can push it a little [on the climbs]But don’t exaggerate.

The other key stakeholder in LeBlanq is three-Michelin star chef Ashley Palmer-Watts, a 20-year veteran of Heston Blumenthal’s culinary empire and former chef of the famed Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire.

Palmer-Watts now heads the Artisan Coffee Company, a mail-order supplier of specialty coffees paired with individually wrapped chocolates. LeBlanq guests receive samples.

Other brand connections include bike sponsorship from Specialized of California and a beer deal with Cold Bath Brewing of Harrogate, Yorkshire. Guests on the LeBlanq journey – although not Ibiza due to a snafu – are followed by Aston Martin support cars.

And the partnership with the brand could pay off: Aston Martin has sold at least one car to an impressed LeBlanq guest.

“Our brand partners are very intelligently integrated into the overall experience,” said Clark.

“Everyone here will have a great deal of affinity with Laurent-Perrier Champagne.

“People are amazed that LeBlanq has a Master of Wine of his own. David Hesketh is one of only 320 Master of Wine in Britain”

Hesketh also introduced each wine – which flowed freely – and, if you want to talk viticulture with him on the hoof, he even drove a support car behind the riders.

Behind them, the riders are led and followed by experienced guides, in contact via shortwave radio: no one is dropped. LeBlanq is “escapism,” Clark said, not running. Groups are categorized by experience, with a pre-trip questionnaire supported by checkups on Strava profiles to match riders as carefully as Vines.

Attention to detail is Clark’s superpower. His three-year career as a cyclist in the late 1990s – “I was a very average domestic professional” – was followed by 20 years of live events, including headlining London’s Test Food Festival. Bought by sports marketing agency IMG in 2012, Clark developed the festival into a series of events around the world.

“I worked with many of the best chefs in the world: René Redzepi, Gordon Ramsay, Heston Blumenthal. I like working with people who are the best at what they do; they are inspiring.

Clarke met Palmer-Watts five years ago at a tasting in Australia.

“Ashley just got on stage and she’s just been introduced as one of our amazing chefs [and we get talking]”Yes, yes, I brought my bike,” Ash said nonchalantly. I was like, ‘Wow, did you bring your bike from the UK to Australia?’ I said, out of interest, what bike is this? And he said, ‘Oh, it’s a Pinarello F8.’ This is a great bike. I immediately said, ‘At some point, Ash, you and I should do something with bikes and food.’”

The result was LeBlanq, founded in 2020.

While Palmer-Watts has cooked on some tours, she is now more of a curator, inviting world-class chefs to join LeBlanq tours. Tom Kitchin, head chef at Edinburgh’s Michelin-starred Kitchin, cooked for guests on the Scottish Joyride and three-Michelin-starred chef Alain Passard prepared meals for those traveling to Champagne, where star rider American Tour de France was the winner. Greg Lemond and the luxury accommodation was at the Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa.

Who are the guests on these tours? Fintech entrepreneurs, but also people on their fourth and fifth luxury trip of the year, have gifted the trips as ‘holidays of a lifetime’.

“This is my 40th birthday present,” said endurance runner Sophie Power.

“My husband is a cyclist: we like to eat, we like to ride a bike.”

Swedish concrete magnate Mattias Björk was on his second Leblanc visit (his first was Champagne), and he would book more.

“I asked Justin: When are you going to South Africa? Are you going to Italy? Are you going to America?”

Wherever LeBlanc goes, Bjork will probably sign up, and it’s because of the chance to ride with the Legends.

“The greatest joy is the rider,” he told me.

“Cavendish cycles in groups of six at the weekend, so we all go see him. He is great.”


i traveled to Ibiza by train and ferry and was appointed by leblanc to record it one hour podcast Interviewing Star Riders while riding. Leblanq’s $3,500 multi-day joyrides are complemented by cheaper but no less exclusive one-day specials. Tickets for the ride, which started and ended at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons in Oxfordshire, sold out in half an hour.

Also read  Holiday market returns to Brooklyn

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Leave a Comment