Ronan I am please to make your acquaintance and learn of your VIP Tour de France Travel company “Ronan Pensec Travel” you have operated since retiring from the pro peloton.
For many of my generation you were one of the most flamboyant and prominent Tour riders of the eighties and nineties.
What year did you commence your career as a professional cyclist and what was the team?
RP I started in 1985 with the Peugeot team and I retired after the 1997 season in the GAN team. I have been a professional rider for 13 years. After Peugeot, I went to Z and in 1990 Greg Lemond came to this team as well. 1990 proved to be a successful year since I wore the Yellow Jersey, Greg won the Tour and we won the team general ranking. Afterwards, I went to the RMO team and to the Peter Post’s team: Novemail.
The eighties were a time where cycling and Le Tour gained prominence in English speaking nations which grew with the success of the English speakers. Was there a change in cycling that coincided with these riders?
RP Since the beginning of my career I had contact with the US team 7Eleven as well as with some Australians such as Phil Anderson, and with some English and Irish riders such as Roche, Millar, Kelly. The big change was that a whole US team with American riders came to the Tour. It was not only individual riders who went to European teams.
In 1990 you had the honor of leading the Tour de France and wearing the yellow jersey. How many days did you hold the lead for and can you describe the emotions for us in being a Frenchman leading your home Tour.
RP I took the Yellow Jersey on my birthday, July 10th, during an arrival at the top in the Col de Saint Gervais. After that, I rode the Alps’ stages wearing it and I lost it after a Time Trial in Villars de Lans.
During those few days in Yellow, there were contrasting emotions: on one hand happiness, joy and pride to wear the Yellow Jersey, something not every rider can achieve. In addition, for me who was a climber, it was also an honor to climb the Alpe d’Huez in Yellow. But there was also a lot of tension and concentration since every day was an important stage because these following stages were mountain stages. In this kind of stage, one can less enjoy the fame of the Yellow Jersey than if it would be a flat stage. With the most little mistake, you pay your failure cash.
Your Teammate Greg Lemond took the final yellow jersey in 1990 was this the first time you were part of an amazing accomplishment like this?
RP Indeed it was! It was the 1st time we had a big leader in the team and, as I said earlier, the Z team did enjoy great success that year since we won the team general ranking as well as the final general ranking. It was a great month of July for the whole team!
In 1997 you ended you career on the road after 13 seasons and look to have stayed involved with cycling and in particular the Tour de France. The experience gained in being a rider for so many years in the peloton must be of considerable use when planning Tour packages for your guests?
RP Since 1997 I have been working with the French television. I am a consultant for the production and on the big events we produce the international signal. My job is to choose the images instantaneously shot for the life broadcasting by cameramen in the helicopters and on the motorcycles, and the different TV channels, which hold the rights to broadcast, commentate on the images.
This 2009 Tour de France will be my 21st Tour de France: 8 as pro rider (in addition to wearing the Yellow Jersey in 1990, I also finished 6th in 1986, 7th in 1988) and 13 TDF as a consultant for the French TV.
As you can imagine, this experience gained “in front and behind the camera” so to say, benefits of course my travel company and the people who choose us.
With cycling now booming in English speaking nations, there are enthusiast riders of all abilities and professions winging their way to France for the month of July to pick up on that Tour de France experience. What can riders on a Ronan Pensec tour look forward to experiencing?
RP The primary purpose of Ronan Pensec Travel is to give the opportunity for the cyclists to be VIP spectators on the Tour de France as well as active participants of the Tour de France. As a matter of fact, our programs include rides on the stages’ roads just a few hours before the pros. I have created for the cycle fans and TDF supporters packages that will bring them at the heart of the TDF to see the pro-riders in the best conditions.
They will enjoy charming hotels, close to the departure and arrival locations of the stages that will spare them long and tiring transfers in bus. This might look like a detail on paper, but if you have to ride the bus for hours, it does indeed make a difference.
The most important thing is that I chose to give the cyclists access to the technical areas at the departure and/or arrival (where they can see the team staff, the team motor homes…) rather than to the Public Relations zones that are moreover reserved for the Tour’s sponsors and where the professional riders rarely go as there are a lot of people as it is the case for the start village. This will enable our participants to feel the atmosphere backstage and to be in close contact with their idols.
I have read you have an association with LOOK Cycle, also a French company, are the group riders able to experience what LOOK have to offer?
RP Yes, of course. There are two major advantages in having LOOK bikes during the week.
1st: we spare the riders the trouble of traveling with their bikes in the plane (they save on hassle and money – bulky luggage fees!).
2nd: we enable the riders to test high quality bikes from LOOK, knowing that professional teams use those bikes.
Ronan Pensec Travel is an official operator of within the Tour de France; does this offer extra benefits for the tourists?
RP We do provide accreditations for the private zones at the start and/or arrival.
In the start area, our participants visit the start area reserved for the teams. That way, they see the teams’ equipment and fleet, such as buses, motor homes, etc. They also see how their favorite riders warm up before the stage.
In the arrival area, they visit the technical zone, the compound, T.V. and media broadcasting area, they can meet former Tour de France champions who are now working for TV (Paul Shewen, Bob Roll, Bernard Hinault…) and collect autographs and take some pictures.
Standing just in front of the finish line, they can watch the famous “caravane publicitaire” passing by before the riders cross the finish line.
L etape du Tour gets bigger every year, and is something riders talk about forever, being able to race on the same course as the Champions and compete against their times, is this an opportunity on a Pensec Tour?
RP We do as well offer packages for the Etape du Tour (3 days) including transfer by bus, accommodation on half board basis and dossard. We can also combine the Etape du Tour with a visit of the Tour de France. For your information, the Etape du Tour next year will arrive at Mont Ventoux.
Group numbers must fill up reasonably quickly once the new route has been announced. Are Tour numbers limited each year?
RP We offer different kind of packages (Premium Package including all access, and Standard Package) and we have a limited number of spots available on each package. The reason for that is the limited number of LOOK bikes available as well as the limited number of accreditations for the Tour de France. The limited number of hotel rooms along the stages is also a factor since on the Tour de France there are approximately 4000 people to accommodate each single day and this can become quite a challenge!
This is why we work on a “1st come, 1st served” basis.
I feel that there is a big demand for the 2009 Tour de France since Lance Armstrong announced his comeback. Also the beautiful performances of Cadel Evans generate a lot of interest.
Lastly who would have to be your pick for victory in the coming year?
RP I think that the 2009 Tour de France will be very interesting and we will witness a captivating close match between Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans and Lance Armstrong.
Thank you for your views Ronan and for the insight into Ronan Pensec Travel and the experience that can be had on a VIP Tour.
Visit www.ronanpensectravel.com for further information.