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Background and career history

Born in Machynlleth in 1980, and despite trying to ride a tricycle eight miles to the local shops at age three, Yanto didn’t take up bike racing competitively until he was 15 years old. Making his amateur debut as a rider for Mid-Devon Cycling Club, he quickly discovered a natural flair for racing and a passion for exploring the limits of his capability.

After winning the Junior British National Road Race Championships in 1998, Yanto went on to represent Great Britain at the Junior Road Race World Championships. At 19 he moved into the senior ranks and was selected to represent Britain as part of the National U23 team, moving to Manchester, along with team mate Bradley Wiggins, to be closer to the British Cycling HQ and the coaching team. 

At 20 he moved to France to experience continental racing, continuing his successful career including placing 8th at the Tour of Britain in 2005 (the highest finishing Brit) and representing Wales in the 2002 and 2006 Commonwealth Games

After founding Le Col in 2011 and running it alongside a career as a professional cyclist, in 2016, Yanto retired from professional racing to focus on the challenge of designing and manufacturing the best clothing apparel in the world at Le Col.

He is now the ‘specialist’ commentator on the ITV4 coverage of the Tour of Britain, writes a column in ‘Cyclist’ on what to wear and how to wear it and recently appointed as official tester for a Bike Testing TV series on the Bike Channel.

We'll let Yanto take the story from here...

An idea borne of obsession

I’ve always been naturally obsessive about performance. Striving for continuous improvement in everything I do is what gets me out of bed in the morning - no matter how small that improvement might be. When riding professionally and as part of team GB, that performance obsession extended beyond my training, and to the kit I was riding in.

I was (and I still am) a rider who will go out in all weathers - come rain, snow or shine. If the training programme says five hours - then you’ll find me out on a five hour ride. And if you’re riding for hours in challenging conditions in badly designed kit, things can start to get quite uncomfortable.

So I found myself inspecting every element of cycling kit design, and I couldn’t help wonder if it could be better. ‘What happens if I made this jersey a little tighter, the chamois of my shorts a little lighter, these bibs more comfortable so that they wouldn’t chafe over 60 mile rides? Surely all these things had the potential to make me go faster?’ Ultimately, I knew that the kit design could and should be better. 

If I don’t win I want to be 100% certain that I didn’t win because of my physical capability. That there was nothing else I could have done to have been more mentally prepared, or nothing about my equipment or clothing that put me at a disadvantage out there.

So I decided to create my own cycling apparel brand. One that would offer riders the best technical product available - something that performs at the very top of it’s game, but looks smart and stylish at the same time. I wanted to create a brand that helps every rider to get the most out of every ride and having spent thousands of hours in the saddle and clocked up over 20,000 hours, I was confident that I could do just that.

As a result, I set up Le Col in 2011, and because our brand is aimed at supporting you in your toughest hours - I named it after some of the toughest peaks and passes in the world.

Back Yourself

As it turns out, starting a business isn’t easy, and the early years of Le Col were crazy. Trying to set up a new venture while still riding full time as a pro pushed me frequently to the brink of exhaustion.

I would tumble from one day to the next, dealing with challenges in the saddle as a rider, and then facing down ones of equal scale off the bike as an entrepreneur. But it never crossed my mind to give up. I would tell myself every single morning that ‘I will find a way to make this work!’

I learnt that there are a lot of similarities between being a professional cyclist and starting a business. Being an entrepreneur is about crossing what look like ‘uncrossable’ gaps in the pursuit of progress. It’s about chasing down the breaks and taking the risks that no one else is willing to take. It’s about leaving nothing ‘out there’ at the end of the day, and going home and knowing that you did everything you could to be the very best that you could be. It’s about believing in yourself, even when others around you may doubt you.

This philosophy is at the heart of everything we do at Le Col; back yourself, you are more capable than you can ever imagine.

NO DETAIL IS TOO SMALL:

Searching for ways to make continuous improvements to our products is at the heart of all our design decisions. I won’t accept anything less than the highest manufacturing quality, so in 2014 when I was struggling to find a factory to make the kit to the specification we needed - I decided to buy our own Le Col Factory in Treviso, Italy instead. It was a huge risk,  especially when many other cycling brands were abandoning the area in search of cheaper alternatives, but it was a risk I felt we needed to take if we were serious about making the best kit in the world.

Thousands of hours of testing in the pro peloton have gone into every item, and no detail is ever too small. Everything we do improves on what has gone before – informed by rider experience, market research, and technical development. It’s is why we support a number of professional cycling teams in their bid to be the best too.

I believe that the ground breaking innovations we strive for at Le Col benefit the cycling industry as a whole. I see my job as making competitive cyclists go faster and the committed non-professional cyclist feel the benefit in performance and comfort.

For the love of cycling

Of course it’s not all about looking achingly cool and going in for personal suffering. I am about the enjoyment of the pleasure of cycling, fitness and exercise and the pursuit of achieving my potential. This is a sport I love, one that has supported me in the transition from boy to man, allowed me to see the world, to meet amazing people and achieve fantastic results.

I may only ride a little now compared to what I used to, but I’m still pretty fit and like riding fast. The friends I ride with at weekends now know that I can still be quite competitive when the time is right, and they test me from time to time just to double check! I respect anyone riding to work or setting goals and targets for themselves, or just simply keeping fit.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE:

When I started Le Col, it was about making something that wasn’t all that good much better. Now we don’t want to just be better, we want to be the best. It’s a fast paced industry and that means we have to move quickly, not with the aim of keeping up, but with the aim of staying ahead and leading the charge. 

Our clothes are for people who are looking for a product that has proven it will go as far and as fast as you can take it; it has been tested to the limits of human endeavour and has delivered every pedal stroke along the way. You don’t need to go that far, but Le Col will look after you all the way if you do.