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WTC's interview Robert Cartledge of Le Domestique Tours

Which Training Camp were able to meet up with Robert Cartledge, Director and Performance Coach of Le Domestique Tours



Which Training Camp - What made you start up LDT?

Robert Cartledge - The start of our venture was several years ago when I worked for a London law firm with my wife, Laura, and the office were entering a team for the Race Across America. I was one of the four riders and Laura was deputy crew chief.

We spent a huge amount of time organising every aspect of our race; the training leading in to it, the logistics of getting to the start, on the road organisation and the way home afterwards. The whole experience was so exhilarating we wanted more of it so Le Domestique Tours was born. 

WTC - Why do you think cycling has become so popular and what is your philosophy towards helping those in the sport?

RC- I think cycling is popular because the sport is about your own personal fitness. You don’t have to compete against the rider next to you; it’s about you and your own ability to tackle whatever terrain comes along. 

Our philosophy at LDT is that we want people to enjoy being on their bike. Our focus is primarily on the high mountains, so we obviously attract a certain type of rider, with many riders treating our tours and challenges as their goal event for the season or even lifetime. With this in mind we focus heavily on helping riders to improve through coaching, training camps and resources available to our riders, as in simple terms, the better prepared you are, the more fun you will have. 

WTC - Why has LDT become so popular in such a short amount of time?

RG - Our backgrounds in the legal market instilled an incredibly high customer service standard in terms of responding to communications and listening to the needs of our customers. We did a lot of market research prior to setting up LDT and one of the consistent messages we heard was that customer services levels in the industry were in many cases poor, with unanswered emails and poor responses to enquiries being common. We recognised that booking a holiday is often the most expensive purchase a person makes each year and therefore our focus on launching LDT was ensuring that our customer service was second to none. Through to this day, the speed and detail of our responses are consistently referenced to as reasons a person or group choose to book with us. 

Initially all the tours were run by Laura and myself, but as we have grown we have built a team of guides that help us to run the growing range of tours we offer. Again, our research demonstrated that many companies operating in the industry utilised guides who had a very limited knowledge of the route they were guiding on, leading to sub par experiences. We therefore ensure that our guides are fully trained on the routes that they guide on, taking part in mock tours where they practice with other members of staff and other in-house training to ensure that whoever you are guided by, your experience with LDT will be fantastic. In addition, we have an in-house nutrition expert and professional chef, Riley. Riley takes care of all our catering on fixed base tours, like our Mallorca Training Camps, Tour de France and Marmotte packages and so on, while also providing a range of superb homemade energy products for riders on our King of the Mountains challenges. 

When we first started Le Domestique Tours we primarily offered fixed base tours, however as the business has grown the interest in point to point challenges such as the Raid Pyrenees and our own King of the Mountains tours has increased rapidly, overtaking the fixed base tours. 

However these week long tours are not always suitable for those with a busy work and home life, who may struggle to take a week off to indulge in their passion, so we have developed a growing range of weekend and long weekend options such as our Club des Cingles du Mont-Ventoux package to cater for this area of the market, which are proving very popular. 

WTC - What’s the difference between the types of tours and camps you offer?

RC - Le Domestique Tours run 3 types of tour to a variety of locations across Europe. The first is the Scheduled tour on pre-set dates which are listed on our web site. The other two are the Private and Bespoke tours. Private tours are usually a group of cyclists who want to experience one of our scheduled tours but can’t make the pre-set dates and/or who want to have a private tour open just to their group. Our Bespoke service is there to cater to groups who want a tour completely tailored to their desires, with us taking a general brief (on topics such as budget, location, type of riding, daily distance etc), then going away and designing a completely bespoke package for them. We’ve had some incredible experiences through our Bespoke service and have taken groups to some fantastic locations. 

We normally operate tours with a maximum of twelve riders to two support vehicles, as we feel that this offers the best guest experience, rather than running bigger groups. That being said we do regularly run Private tours for much larger groups by request, with group sizes regularly in high teens and low twenties. Throughout our peak periods we can be running up to four tours at any one time, meaning we are a very common sight on the mountain roads. 

In terms of location, there will always be the demand for tours centred on the iconic climbs. When a rider goes home and tells his or her mates at the local cycling club that they went up the Col du Galibier, they will know the climb and may have even ridden it themselves. So there is that common bond. If you ride a little known climb, that bond isn’t necessarily there. We try to educate our guests on this aspect of tour choice, as some of our favourite climbs in the world are very much off the beaten track! 

We have launched some very exciting Scheduled tours this year after previously running them as Bespoke tours or as part of another tour, including the Club des Cinglés du Mont-Ventoux. The Cingles forms part of our King of the Mountains Tour de France package, which is the only scheduled tour that we are aware of that offers riders the chance to ride the Col du Tourmalet, Mont-Ventoux and Alpe d’Huez in one incredible week over seven stages. The Club des Cinglés du Mont-Ventoux is still part of that KOM package but owing to the time demands of many of our clients as I have mentioned above, we are also now offering a two night Cingles package. Cyclists will arrive on Friday, ride the three ascents of Mont Ventoux on Saturday and then fly home on Sunday as newly minted members of the Madmen of Ventoux club. 

Finally we also offer a growing range of training camps at the start and end of each season focussed on Nice and Mallorca. These camps are designed to underpin our philosophy that the better you ride the more you enjoy riding. They incorporate professionally designed riding on incredible roads, with our own Masterclass sessions which cover topics such as descending, building a training plan, fuelling your riding and so on, together with superb private villa accommodation and food from our professional chef. We are incredibly proud of our training camps and feel that they offer a true pro level experience, designed to improve your riding over the long term.

WTC - Do you offer on-line coaching?

RC - Yes, we offer fully bespoke on-line training plans which are available to anyone, although coming on one of our camps or tours allows us to work with a client more closely to find out their specific training needs. 

WTC - What’s your favourite region to cycle?

RC - I go through phases depending, with the Pyrenees tending to be steeper and shorter, while the Alps, not always, but usually, offer longer and more gradual climbing. My current favourites are the Gavia and Stelvio in Italy as they are simply incredible and I love the thought of riding my bike to an altitude that most non-cyclists can’t even comprehend! 

WTC - What is your favourite meal prepared by your in-house chef, Riley?

RC - I have coeliac disease, which means I am very limited as to what I can eat. Luckily Riley is able to extract incredible flavour from incredibly healthy ingredients. I would probably say my favourite is his take on the nicoise salad, which ticks pretty much every box from a nutrition perspective at the end of a ride. 

WTC - What is your favourite accommodation you use on your tours and camps?

RC - Of the LDT accommodation we offer, my favourite is the chalet we use for the Marmotte and Tour de France tours. The chalet is located on Hairpin 2 of Alpe d’Huez offering incredible views of the mountain below, which will be absolutely amazing for watching Stage 20 of this year’s Tour de France. 

WTC - What are your thoughts on Nutritional products?

RC - We believe that everything has a place, but that everyone is different. So there isn’t a one size fits all approach for sports nutrition. We advocate that riders should do what works best for them. On our tours and camps riders can pre-order CNP or Torq products from us, so they will be waiting for them on arrival if they use such products, or they can bring their own, or they can indulge on our homemade alternatives!

To find out more about Le Domestique Tours and what they offer see LDT ....

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Categories: All topics, Interviews, Cycling

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