depending on which way you look at this, either yanto has joined the pendragon sports cycle team, or they have joined him. whatever the real story the team has successfully married yanto's clothing firm le col with his favoured bicycle company, colnago. yanto and i have corresponded over quite a large part of 2009, and i still can't understand how i missed meeting him in person at the cycle show in october, despite standing right next to him. my loss, unfortunately. however, you will hopefully have read thewashingmachinepost reviews of a selection of le col clothing last month: switzerland should be looking over its shoulder. i asked him about le col, colnago and his plans for 2010.
your wikipedia entry describes you as a retired professional cyclist. but you're not. why the return to the pro ranks?
Racing was something I missed a lot after stopping in March 2006 after the commonwealth games in Melbourne. I just love bikes, racing, and being fit and healthy, realising during my time away, that I took it for granted before I stopped the sport. For this reason I was looking for a way to get involved again, and do what I do best.
you had a fairly successful season in 2009, so was it as hard coming back from retirement as you figured it might be?
That's a good question. First of all I was delighted with my season, all things considered. The critical factor here was how hard I expected it to be; I knew it would be tough, so there were no surprises there. I went out some days at 9am and had to stay out for six hours, till the roads back to my house thawed out enough for me to get up the last few climbs. Often I would come across ice and nearly came off badly a few times, but I have done 250,000 miles now, so you get better at reading the conditions. When I started training again I pushed myself hard straight away, even though I was only going slow (25kph average), but I new I would get faster. The thing is, you realise quickly that, as a competitive cyclist, the pain is the same at what ever level you are; it's just how fast you go that changes. So it wasn't unexpected. You also begin to develop positive associations with pain, because if it hurts, you can be sure it's working ha ha! That's my training philosophy.
was the sole motivation for the return, the marketing of le col clothing, or is this a chicken and egg situation?
The sole reason I returned to racing was to market Le Col clothing, having decided to enter the clothing business because I wanted something within the cycling industry that wasn't just racing full time. And I really felt I could do a good job with this.
modern day cycling is awash with quality apparel. what prompted you to step up to the plate?
That's a difficult question to answer. Ultimately, I'm motivated and inspired to make kit that I love, and if a few other people like it too that's all the better; then I can make a business out of it. I am in an interesting position in that I am the creator, ambassador, and customer of my own product. I think, with some good marketing, it will go well; indeed it is already going well, but I don't take anything for granted, and I know there is so much more I need to do, just to get it properly off the ground. But I am also a professional designing clothing for my sport, and you there aren't many of us around. I think this gives what I am doing, a little more credibility than if I was solely a businessman. Lastly, it doesn't matter how many brands are out there already: if you can be better than the competition, you will sell the product.
were there any times during the development of le col, when you seriously wondered about your credentials for being there amongst some exalted company?
Yes! Every day! And that's still there most days, but I use it as a positive motivator to work hard and prove myself and the product against the best. Whenever I feel anxious of my ability to deliver a premium clothing brand to the market, I remind myself that if anyone should know how the clothing should perform, it's someone like me, who has done the miles and been involved in the industry as long as I have at top level. Lastly, I've had significant help and advice from close friends, who I'm sure are sick of me asking them what I should do. But they are always helpful, and I am not afraid to ask for help.
the story often goes that the reason for developing a range of clothing is the inability to find just what's needed. that's gradually becoming a thinner statement. what prompted the birth of le col?
I see that statement as becoming thinner and thinner in all areas of business, not just cycling clothing. This is a time to do things not so much new, but better. Le Col clothing as a business allows me to be as 'obsessive compulsive' as I like, and I look upon that as being a positive thing. I believe there is so much potential in what I am doing; I see everything as foundation work that will stabilise the business as it gets bigger. One of my biggest pleasures is organising, a characteristic that really works in a business. I want Le Col to be the best organised in the world, which will be a compelling reason for people to want to work with me. The biggest benefits of being organised are reliability and predictability; that becomes important in proportion to what's at stake. So the bigger things are, the more it's worth!
the logo is undoubtedly one of the finest on the planet. who's idea and handiwork was that?
Ha ha! Thank you very much. I gave a detailed brief to my good friend Jon Locke, now signed for Rapha, and between us that's what came together. Ultimately I decided which version to go with; the one on the website is about the 50th version. But essentially, I designed it, but I'm sure I told you that already and I think you might be flattering me just little. Thanks all the same!
with so many top quality bicycles on the market, why did you choose to ride a colnago for the 2009 season?
Well to begin with it was a calculated approach, as they had very little representation in the UK, while Cervelo had two top teams, so I thought we could help each other a little. But I am very happy with the support they have given me and would like to thank Pete at Windwave for being so helpful.
which groupsets will be favoured on the team bikes (shimano/campag/sram)?
I want to ride Campag and keep the Italian continuity. But it is subject to approval from the bike suppliers at Windwave.
i think you and i share the same thoughts on what makes a top bicycle, but just for the sake of clarity,money no object, which frame do you buy?
Ha ha. Yes, a conversation I have no doubt we all enjoy having. As a very lucky individual, I am sponsored, and I just happen to ride the bike of my dreams: a Colnago EPS, I'm not just saying that! It's absolutely beautiful. It is clear that Mr C has as much enthusiasm for his products as it is possible to have for an inanimate object, and this is the best of the best! I aspire to be like him.
have you formed a team for next year so that you have someone to talk to? was the team your idea and is it all about winning races?
The team is an exciting prospect for me, something that was always in the big plan; it was just a matter of timing. I was not committed to do a team this big till quite late in the season, but as it turned out everything was just in the right place at the right time. Nick at Pendragon is a very, very efficient businessman, and I enjoy working with someone as enthusiastic and positive as him. He has put most of the team infrastructure in place and the good thing is that it's been done in a way that even with a budget ten times the size it would still be just as efficient. He runs a tight show.
there's often far more cogs in the machine than can be seen from the outside, so despite favouring a colnago, how difficult was it to get them on board for the 2010 pendragon/le col/colnago team?
A large amount of Colnago's involvement has been down to the positive relationship I have personally with Pete at Windwave. He has been so good to me, that I really want the team to deliver value for his investment. I will work very hard to make sure that happens.
availability of le col clothing seems to be on the increase in the uk, but do you have eyes on markets further afield. is the ultimate aim to turn le col into one of the world's top cycle clothiers?
You shouldn't try and run before you can walk! At the same time I am ambitious!
le col will have the benefit of a following team car for next season, but are you comfortable with spanner wielding on those training rides?
As little as I can get away with, but yes if absolutely necessary.
yanto photo by simon keitch.
posted saturday 5 december 2009