Welcome to From the Top - a podcast about the founders, the innovators, and the remarkable people in the cycling industry and the stories about the icons they've created.
Building Rocket Espresso
Rocket Espresso is not a cycling brand per se, but it’s arguably the best known coffee brand who are part of the orbit in our own little cycling world.
It’s only a recent phenomenon that cycling and coffee have gone hand in hand, and most cyclists have an appreciation for beautiful, mechanical, craftsmanship which Rocket does so wonderfully.
New Zealander Andrew Meo is the co-founder of Rocket Espresso and it’s no coincidence that the brand found its way into cycling. Andrew is a lifelong avid cyclist and his passion for coffee didn’t come until a bit later in his life...
Coverart photo by Augustus Farmer (augustusfarmer.com)
So much of Tom Richey's story has already been documented and I didn’t want to just do that again. In fact, I can’t do justice to telling Tom’s intertwined life and business journey in a reasonable length of podcast. But as it turned out, what came out of Tom during our interview ended up being so much better. At this point of Tom’s life I found him incredibly reflective on his experiences, with the benefit of years of hindsight and perspective.
The genesis of Cervelo started in 1995 when two young engineering students named Phil White and Gerard Vroomen met in the composites lab at McGill University in Canada. Over a span of 15 years they went from building a crazy aerodynamic time trial bike as a university project to creating one of the most disruptive and loved bike brands in the world. But what many people don’t know is that as wildly successful Cervelo was up until 2011, it was a pressure cooker of constant financial challenges which ultimately led to Cervelo needing to sell the business to Dutch holding company, PON. 2008-2011 saw the perfect storm for Cervelo with the global financial crisis, setting up a professional team that was far more successful than ever imagined, and a private lender which led to the company’s turn of events.
Indoor training has been around for longer than I can remember, but it was in 2014 when Zwift came along that it changed this market forever. It came into the world with bold ambitions, reimagined the space and what it could become, and has grown the market to a size that nobody could have imagined.
As far back as I can recall the earliest pioneers in the indoor virtual world space were the likes of Computrainer and Tacx - that would have been in the late 90’s, early 2000’s. But they never really delivered on the promise making indoor training much more enjoyable. They can’t be blamed for lack of vision or not trying - the technology wasn’t even there at the time. Social networks didn’t exist, multi player online games weren’t around, broadband speeds were slow and wireless protocols such as ANT+ and BTLE hadn’t been invented yet.
But, in 2010 when a gaming software developer in Southern California named Jon Mayfield began tinkering with his kinetic trainer and finding ways for it to communicate with a virtual world he built, he had no idea how big this would become.
You’ll be hard pressed to find a more iconic brand in cycling than Castelli. The company dates back to the late 1800’s to around the time of the first ever documented bike race. There’s so much to Castelli’s checkered history but most recently an American by the name of Steve Smith came onto the scene in 2000. He had no Italian heritage, no real cycling industry experience, but he did have a love cycling. By his own admission, he wasn’t an amazing cyclist, technical innovation was where his interest always strayed so he could stay competitive.
Steve’s email signature says ‘Castelli Brand Manager’, but I always got the feeling from speaking with him over the years that he did far more than that. As I dug into his story deeper, he’s part owner of the business, steers the ship, and is ultimately the man who turned Castelli around into what we know it as today.
Building 'Life in the Peloton' with Mitch Docker
Normally the theme of this podcast is the entrepreneurial journeys of people in the cycling industry who have had their ups and downs and have come out the other side. When pro cyclist Mitch Docker announced his retirement I was in the middle of producing Christian Meier’s story, much of the background I got from Mitch’s podcast, Life in the Peloton. So it got me thinking about Life in the Peloton. Is it a business for Mitch? How did he start this? What makes him tick? Where might it go? Mitch is clearly a smart, talented and hard working guy, so why not document his story now at this point of his journey rather than 10 years from now?
Maybe I’m shoe horning this into a theme where it doesn’t belong, but here’s my justification: Mitch Docker’s Life in the Peloton is arguably the best and most prolific cycling podcast out there of its kind. He’s flipped the traditional model of journalism on its head and he’s created something truly unique. Not only that – he’s stuck with it for 6 years now with consistency and he keeps making better.
For those not familiar, Life in the peloton is Mitch’s way of telling the world quite simply, what the life of a professional cyclist is like, and translates it everyone can understand. It’s not Mitch’s monologue and self-indulgent hour on-air. Quite the opposite. In this day and age of social media, quick likes and shares that serves as a self promotional tool, Mitch has opted to tell other people’s stories in long-form audio, that also reflects elements of his life. He has unique place in the sport to be able to do this, but also skillset as an interviewer, conversationalist, mastery of the podcast medium, and relatable nature that documents the sport like we haven’t experienced before.
This episode blew me away! To hear Tom’s story and his beliefs was just awesome. Thanks Wade and Tom
Very engaging podcast with interesting people that are passionate about what they do. I find it interesting and am intrigued with these companies/brands start and grow(most of the time with little in the way of resources). Particularly enjoyed the Curve and 7Mesh episodes.
I own a 7Mesh Jacket which I purchased 3 years ago and still my favourite piece of cycling clothing.👍
Each and every one of these interviews is interesting.
Wade is a great interviewer- gently steers the subject in a direction and actually lets them speak. Every story is fascinating and I’m jealous of their drive and foresight. From the Top is the “sleeper” in the spectrum of CyclingTips podcasts. I can clean my whole house in 1 hour 20 minutes of FTT.