there are now many london-paris rides, some longer than others, but there is only one londres-paris, an event that promises, and delivers, a professional experience for amateur riders. it is a truism to point out that the history of the event would not exist but for the enthusiasm and organisational skills of sven thiele. this enthusiasm means that the man doesn't sit still for more than five minutes, and has now formed his own company (hotchillee) to handle not only londres-paris but the promise of ever more cycle and sporting events.
according to your profile, you are described as a technology entrepreneur. where does cycling fit into all this?
During the heady late 90s we had a wonderful time in the city, living life to the full! I managed to improve my weight to power ratio and peaked at a massive 17 stone. I attended a school reunion at that time and from having been one of the fitter ones I had become one of the largest and most unhealthy. My old school friends who were cycling were the fittest and youngest looking. It then took me six months to get the courage to go into a cycle store (Sigma Cycle Sport). That was about 8 years ago. It changed my life.
have you ever been a cycle competitor ie, have you taken part in 'proper' races?
Yes, at a low level. My first Surrey League race I managed 1/2 a lap on the Lyne circuit before being severely spat out in a 4th cat race. Nobody can prepare you for how hard cycling is on the physiology. I think I got lapped twice on a 16 km circuit. I race at a gentlemanly pace as a Cat 3.
when and why did you start the annual london-paris ride?
It was conceived in 2003. By now I could cycle okayish, was very passionate and through business travel had encountered events around the world that took cycling for the amateur to the next level. Another friend, Simon Lyons and I decided to organise what would be a multi-stage ride requiring training, focus and dedication but would also be fun and sociable. Being in the City, the first twelve riders were probably all from there.
had you any experience of organising events of any description prior to this?
Many, but for the business world. The one thing I wanted to achieve was the best level of professionalism, and the most authentic experience with the finest safety constraints. I must confess that at that time I did not expect it to be ranked in the top 25 events in the world alongside the NYC and London marathons by the Daily Telegraph.
are you still learning?
Everyday. I want to take the experiential market to another level.
why is it necessary to form a company (hotchillee) to run this and other events?
Our size and plans now demand it. We need to manage commercial relationships across multiple events with different goals and objectives. It should make things easier! Most recent examples are the BikeRadarLive weekend where we are organizing a unique circuit event 'The Devil' and the HotChillee Challenge Team heading out to ride The Argus Cycle Tour in Cape Town next month.
is this you diversifying professionally?
Absolutely, and I would say personally as well.
how many people will be involved with hotchillee?
For a major international event like the London-Paris Cycle Tour there are about 100+ people at the peak during the event. Typically there about 10+ people ranging from operational, technology, design, media and CSR, but not all necessarily on a full time basis.
are you open to approach from third parties who would wish to work with hotchillee, or will you contact those you think you might like to work with?
We are very much open to approach. Since announcing HotChillee we have had significant discussions ranging from USA, Asia, South Africa and the Middle East.
how do you find the time to run a technological empire as well as a new company and still ride so many events?
My philosophy is only to work with the best and in doing so problems are minimized, speed and agility is maximised and by throwing in creative thinking and passion, most pre-conceived boundaries can be broken.
will hotchillee's remit be restricted to european events, or are you already thinking further afield?
where did the tie-in with bikeradar come from?
As with many of these things a convergence of ideas and being in the right place at the right time! Together with Future Publishing, the owners, we share a common view on where cycling is today and how much can still be done for the community and within the industry.
do you see uk cycling in general becoming even bigger than it is at present?
Much, much bigger, and elsewhere in the world as well. This wave has been developing from before I started cycling. Only in the last year has it entered the mainstream consciousness and many newcomers think this has jumped out of nowhere...only once before have I seen such a groundswell of momentum and that was the tech wave in the 80s.
can it sustain the number of 'extra-curricular' companies such as yours that seem to be ever increasing on the perimeter of the cycling world?
No, in my opinion. There are too many companies and hence very little in terms of economies of scale and process. I think that the number of events will increase and as a whole the quality will improve, but that the number of companies will decrease through aggregation or leaving the industry when the gloss or passion has worn off.
why would someone ally themselves with hotchillee for event promotion/organisation as opposed to some of the others who already exist in this field?
We are 100% focused on delivering only top tier professionally managed events. For our participants and sponsors alike, we break boundaries and provide totally immersive experiences - which are always remembered. The fact is that we have fun and love what we do.
does this new venture put you in direct competition with anthony and brian at cyclevox?
No. Cyclevox is one of the most professional companies in the space out there and in fact we work together quite closely!
are you, or will you be involved with aspects of cycling that do not involve going fast?
I think you are reading my mind! We look at pushing boundaries, and that may not only be about going fast - it could be long, high, deep, scary, hot, cold...
is the london-paris ride in danger of becoming 'the same old, same old' or have you plans to spice it up a little in the coming years - maybe altering the route, or taking in some hillier terrain?
We do change aspects of the event every year and plan on continuing to do this. The route has changed again since last year (although it has the same stopovers). I would love to throw in an Alp or two and we continue seeking to break some logistical boundaries...
how important is it to surround yourself with staff who share the same ideals for cycling?
I think first and foremost are passion, professionalism and energy. With these core ingredients it does not take long for someone to share and execute our ideals for cycling.
finally, aren't you worried this might turn cycling into a job, rather than a healthy, if sometimes expensive, obsession?
I love my job!..........................................................................................................................................................................................................