During last year’s Tour de France, many of our regulars were intrigued. Who was the stunning, long-legged blonde employed by Eurosport to interview riders and directeur sportifs? It was my mate and riding buddy Petra Harangi and it was thanks to her and Eurosport that I spent a magical few days at last year’s Tour. The good news is that Petra will once more be gracing our Eurosport screens this year – possibly as early as the Criterium International – and I’ve finally gotten her onto the VeloVoices sofa where she’s enjoying a cappuccino.
Sheree: Petra, perhaps you could start by explaining how you ended up working for Eurosport at last year’s Tour de France?
Petra: I first worked for Eurosport International in 2003. My first job was with Patrick Chasse and Jean Francois Bernard at the Road World Championships in Canada. It was a great memory. At the time, I was still a triathlete and a student and thanks to this job I earned some extra money. Then, I did my first Tour de France in 2004 and some other road and track cycling events as an assistant (some journalism, looking after VIPs and doing translation into Dutch). Last year, the editor-in-chief of cycling Stefano Bernabino proposed to me again the possibility to integrate into the Eurosport staff at the Tour. He was looking for a girl – cycling is a man’s world – who knows this sport, rides, knows the athletes and the race, and speaks German.
Sheree: Ah, yes, just in case a number of our readers are thinking “I could do that”, I should have explained that you speak a number of European languages: German, Hungarian, Dutch, French, Spanish, Italian and English! Carry on.
Petra: Three of us were considered for this job, but I got the chance and the adventure began … I said adventure, because it was really exciting and now I’m continuing with this challenge!
Sheree: What aspects of the role do you find most enjoyable and why?
Petra: I work as a reporter interviewing the riders before and after every stage. I really like the sporting side of this job. I have to learn about the history of each of the stages as well as understand the parcours and its difficulties. Every morning we ask ourselves “What will happen today?” What story can we tell the public and what can we ask the riders and directeur sportifs? What’ll be the tactics? Which riders will be in the break, how will the race unfold? Who will win? This part of my job is like gazing into a crystal ball. I enjoy this a lot, because I have to put myself into the shoes of the rider and the spectator at the same time. I also run through various scenarios trying to imagine and visualise each stage and finish in my head. I also bounce my ideas off some of my pro friends. Finally at the finish, we find out if our predictions came good or not. It goes something like this: “Eurosport gaze into the future and tell me who will win today? Who will have good legs today?” I was fortunate, I had quite a lot of good ideas and I’d like to thank Seb [Chavanel], Geoffroy [Lequatre], Goubi [Stephane Goubert], Jacky [Durand], Sean [Kelly] my cameraman Pierre-Henri [Menthéour] and Sheree for their help!
Sheree: You’re welcome. I’m available whenever and wherever! Who were the most fun riders to interview?
Petra: Definitely my friends, Nico [Roche], Amael [Moinard], Max [Monfort] … It was fun for me to be serious with them for once and I had the chance to support them each day. It’s good to see some buddies every day, particularly when you are away from home for a long time. For the others, Matthew Goss was smiling each time I saw him and it was lovely to see the development of Peter Sagan with the media!
Sheree: Of course, despite your prior experience, this was your first time with a microphone wasn’t it? It must have been quite nerve-racking.
Petra: Yes, it was my first time. That’s why I forgot several times to turn on my microphone on the first day! I was so stressed. I had to think about all the technical details, the instructions in my ear-piece from the producer, which button to push, when and where and what question to ask next. It was the live programme at the Prologue in Liege and I was the number one reporter!
The riders were crossing the line at over 55-60 kph and the producer said, “Come on Petra; show us how fast you can run and how well you know the riders to get them to stop.” Luckily, there were no other ex-athletes at any of the other channels, so I think I did quite well.
I also had a fantastic cameramen (actually he is an ex-pro cyclist), who helped me to overcome my stress and I had several great teachers, like Nico Geay (France2), Karsten Migels (Eurosport Germany) and, later in the week, Stefano himself.
Sheree: By the time I pitched up at the Tour during the last week you were a dab hand at the interviewing and had no trouble attracting the attention of whomever you wanted to interview. As an aside, I should add that days at the Tour are long and tiring for everyone. Stamina and plenty of energy are required. You mentioned you’re an ex-athlete. You’ve competed at the highest level as a triathlete, so tell us about your sporting background and training.
Petra: I have a sporty family. I swam from 6-13 years, then after a short experience in pentathlon, my twin brother and I started doing triathlons. I spent 12 years in this sport and I was a member of the Hungarian National team for ten years. I competed at lots of really nice races as well as European and World Championships. But it’s a very tough sport. Today, I’m just trying to stay fit and healthy. I practice sport for pleasure, no more pressure for results! I do a lot of different sports: running, cycling, fitness, roller skating, cross-country skiing, diving, swimming …
Sheree: Petra is also the driving force behind G4 which sells fabulously stylish high-tech and high-spec cycling kit and casual wear designed by her other half, Bretagne-Seche’s Geoffroy Lequatre. Starting a company is never easy but Petra’s embraced every aspect with gusto. What have been some of your major challenges?
Petra: In 2009, Geoffroy designed his then team’s Tour de France casual clothes. Everybody really liked the collection and this gave him the impetus to start his own brand of cycling and casual clothes, where he can put his practical experiences of the really comfortable and high-tech clothing worn by the pros, but with a modern and nice design, to try to make something different. Today, a lot of the cycling brands have a quite classical design. As he is still a pro rider without any free time, I was interested to take on his project.
Today, I’m the general manager of G4. It’s a job with much responsibility and some stress too. I think I’m becoming more and more competent in the management of a company. After almost three years, I’m still learning something new every day in all different areas. The future will tell us if I’ve done my job well or not.
G4’s major challenge is to meet Geoffroy’s desire for everything to be of the highest quality: product, design, website, promotion and communication. As you know, he is a pro cyclist and a perfectionist. Seriously, to launch a new brand today is not easy, you need both time and patience.
Another major challenge was our choice of partners:
- Major media, like Eurosport and Cyclingnews. (In 2012, we were the official clothing suppliers for both at the Tour de France and for Eurosport at the Vuelta a Espana.)
- Strong riders like French cyclo-cross champion Lucie Chainel who won bronze at the recent World Championships.
- Exhibiting at L’Etape du Tour, Ironman Nice and other similarly prestigious events to get us better known by the public.
Sheree: Which of your many activities do you enjoy the most and why?
Petra: I enjoy almost everything but I have maybe two preferences. Firstly, I enjoy the direct contact with competitors and the public at exhibitions. Here I can explain about the technology behind our products, for example why our shorts are so comfortable and why we chose these particular fabrics. Their feedback makes me happy and particularly when I see how good they look on their bikes in G4. I also enjoy the marketing, particularly coming up with ideas to promote our products and expand distribution.
Sheree: Tell us more about G4’s developing partnership with Eurosport.
Petra: Eurosport’s ‘Centenary Tour’ Collection is a great challenge for G4 and for Geoffroy. Cycling wants to change, become more attractive, but also retain its traditions and values. I think this collection reflects these values and celebrates the centenary edition of the Tour de France in a special way. We feel really honoured that Eurosport entrusted G4 to make their special centenary casual and cycling collection which will be worn by the entire Eurosport crew at this year’s Tour. I think it’s a nice story which brings together the brand of a professional cyclist with the cycling channel!
Sheree: When and where will people be able to buy the limited edition, commemorative centenary Tour de France casual tops and jackets?
Petra: We just launched this collection on our website – with worldwide delivery – at the start of Paris-Nice and it’ll also be available through our French distributors. Going forward, it’ll be on sale at many major French amateur events this summer where G4 will be exhibiting. There will also be opportunities to win some items during Eurosport’s coverage of the Tour de France and by visiting G4’s Facebook page. Follow us on Twitter @g4dimension to get all the latest news.
Sheree: Are you also rolling out a commemorative line of cycling kit?
Petra: Yes, our partnership with Eurosport extends to their new Eurosport ProAm programme, where everybody will have the chance to participate in a competition to cycle with a pro up some of the mythical Tour stages, like Mont Ventoux and Alpe d’Huez. Both will be clad from head to foot in G4’s Eurosport ‘100th Tour’cycling kit. This will also go on sale through the website in April.
Sheree: I understand you’re in the process of expanding your distribution channels, firstly in France and then into other European countries.
Petra: We wanted to start the distribution in France, because this is the country of the Tour de France, plus Geoffroy is French. From 2014 onwards, G4 will be available in major outlets in other European countries such as Germany, Italy, Spain, England … but for now it’s mostly through our web shop. There’s no excuse, anyone can buy G4’s products!
Sheree: Petra thanks for giving us the lowdown on your work for and collaboration with Eurosport. Here’s hoping it goes from strength to strength.
Petra: Thanks and hope to see you again for the Tour, Sheree!
Sheree: That’s a date!
(All images are courtesy of Petra Harangi and Geoffroy Lequatre.)