LIFESTYLE CYCLING by Guido Eicklebeck
Short, tailored cycling holidays have become the networking and team-bonding activity du jour for the world’s time-poor, top-level executives who want to combine fine food and wine with outdoor fun.
It is no secret that professional cycling has suffered in the past decade. The endless doping scandals that continue to rock the sport have led to a significant fall in corporate sponsorship monies and a huge drop in TV audiences around the world. But while people may be turning off the Tour de France, many are tuning into the sport on a whole new level.
Among an increasingly large group of highpowered executives the bike has replaced the fairway or the tennis court as the place to conduct informal business meetings and high-level networking. Just ask ex-professional rider Guido Eickelbeck who rode for Germany’s Team Telekom in the 1990s. His company, Lifestyle Cycling, organises events around the world aimed at top-level executives, offering cycling holidays that combine a day’s riding with five-star accommodation, gourmet cuisine and fine wines, all of which amounts to a whole lot of fun.
In just over a year since its inception, Lifestyle Cycling has already built a client list that reads like a who’s who of top business execs. “The last event I organised had over 100 top managers from some major companies,” says Eickelbeck. “Some very high-powered people are waking up to the joys of cycling.” This year Eickelbeck’s clients include the CEO of Qualcomm Dr Paul Jacobs and his brother Jeff who flew in for an event on their private jumbo jet, as well as media attorney Matthias Prinz and the former CFO of T-Mobile International Thomas Winkler.
Eickelbeck, who since leaving racing spent 10 years in South Africa and later worked as VIP events manager for Deutsche Telekom, started the company after completing a London-to-Canterbury cycling event. “Around 6,000 riders attended. It was incredible. I met a lot of people and a lot of them were businessmen. Everyone was having fun and I realised a lifestyle had been born and I wanted to be a part of it. What better way than to start a company that would cater to their needs.”
Unlike existing cycling holidays, Lifestyle Cycling is specifically geared to high-level business customers. “My clients are very busy people. They don’t get a lot of free time and it is my job to make sure they enjoy every moment.
We take the riding seriously but the key is to have fun. By the end of the day our guests have had plenty of exercise and fresh air, maybe a spa treatment, some good food and wine, and a lot of camaraderie. Many have told me they have never felt so relaxed in all their lives.”
Working with this type of clientele is not easy. “These are people that are used to hard work. They push themselves and they expect things to be done right. They don’t make excuses and they won’t accept any either,” says Eickelbeck. Therefore, everything must be first rate, from the Lexus shuttle that greets clients at the airport to the Kuota Kharma carbon-framed bikes and Uvex helmets. Participants in the upcoming Velothon Berlin street race will stay in the famous Hotel Aldon and dine at its Michelin-star restaurant, while those attending the Mallorca training camps enjoy the luxury of Gran Hotel Son Julia and take part in a cooking course with one of the island’s top chefs, Marc Fosh.
Lifestyle Cycling also has a group of expert guides, including former professional riders, that are always on hand to help fit the riders’ bikes, handle any repairs, teach proper seating and pedalling techniques and share their knowledge of the road. Most events also include talks on diet and training and there are always a few added fun activities that Eickelbeck likes to spring on his clients as a surprise.
Much of the success of Lifestyle Cycling is due to Eickelbeck’s gregarious nature. He is a natural born storyteller and clients never tire of his humorous anecdotes from his professional riding days. And when they are out on the road almost always he can be found pedalling and chatting away merrily in the middle of the pack. His highspirited enthusiasm for the sport is contagious, and his love of good food and fine wine and his charisma make evenings a real treat. “It also helps that I always pack a box of Cohibas to share at the end of the day,” he says with a wry smile.
As word spreads more businesses are signing up their top management to take part in Lifestyle Cycling’s events. “It’s a great networking tool,” confirms Eickelbeck. “When you ride for three or four hours next to someone, chatting as you go, by the end of the day you have become friends. The cycling brings people together in ways other sports can’t, and I guarantee you that any business problem you have will be solved by the time you reach the top of the next mountain; it’s the fresh air and exercise that does it.”