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Peter Velits: From the pro peloton to running a cycling apparel brand

A couple of weeks ago, we had the opportunity of joining a collaborative social ride in Prague, organized by the SBCR on the occasion of the release of Isadore collection and the new Repete and SBCR collaboration. The event was a pleasant way of getting to know the people from the local cycling community, with around 50 riders attending.

The participant list however featured one VIP name: Peter Velits, the former Slovak pro cyclist of teams like BMC and Quick-Step. Nowadays, together with his brother Martin, also an ex pro cyclist, they run the Isadore brand, producing cycling apparel.

The day agenda started with an easy 60 km hilly group ride with a brief photo shooting session included. Back in the SBCR store, a light meal followed and the highlight of the day: the premiere of the Repete video to commemorate the collaboration with the SBCR store. After that, we had some time to interview Peter Velits, to learn about his experience from the pro peloton, the transition to this new chapter and what it is like running a cycling apparel brand.

Peter caught the attention of the professional cycling teams when he won the U23 World Championships in 2007. Then 22-year-old Slovak signed his contract with the Team Milram afterwards. Three years later he would finish on the podium of the general classification at La Vuelta. Nowadays when looking back, Peter seems content with his career, saying he wouldn’t change a thing about it.

The Slovak twins in the pro peloton

Not many professional athletes get to compete with and against their siblings in their respective sport. Peter was lucky enough to experience his career side by side with his brother Martin being on the same team, until wrapping up his competitive career in Team BMC while Martin stayed in Quick-Step. Even then they trained together, just each one wearing a different kit.

Quite a unique experience, one might think, but for the Velits brothers this felt natural, since they grew up doing various sports together and this remained also during their cycling careers and even after that, as they started up their cycling apparel brand Isadore. To be precise, the brothers founded the brand already three years before their retirement, so the early years in the business might have been a bit busy at times.

“We got used to coming to our office before the daily training session. We could aslo handle business matters from the team bus. So, when the transition to retirement came, it simply wasn’t that significant of a change, we just left out the training part.”

From racing to producing cycling apparel

Peter and Martin had various business ideas before deciding to produce cycling apparel. “We thought it would be best to try to focus on something that we know well. And so cycling apparel came to our mind. We knew how it should fit, how you should feel in it. But later we obviously learned that it’s not just about how it fits and looks, but more about how you run the production and manage all the logistics.” Peter is grateful for the people he got to work within their business.

One of the brand’s core values is sustainable production based in the EU. Since the beginning, the company has been producing their clothes from merino wool. And when it comes to packaging, Peter knows from his own experience how much packaging each of the many kits the pro riders receive every season includes. So, they took these aspects into account when thinking about how to pack their products. “So, in the end, there were several decisions that, once put together, made our business sustainable to a certain extent. But the initial goal wasn’t to start a sustainable business at first, it only resulted into that thanks to the early decisions made,” he adds.

Exploring cycling from different perspective

Peter currently invests his time in the business and his family. He does not feel the urge to be involved in any sort of competitive cycling, such as ultra-distance bike races or similar events, like some of his former teammates and rivals. At least not at the moment. The rides he nowadays enjoys the most are easy social rides like the one we did together.

“In cycling, I know I won’t be at the same level as I once was. But that’s okay, I don’t miss going hard, I’ve had enough during those 10 years. In ice hockey on the other hand, I still have a lot of room to improve, so that motivates me.”

Last year, Isadore opened its Community Hub in Bratislava, bringing together the local cyclists of the Slovak capital. When celebrating the first year since its opening, 150 cyclists took part in their group ride, confirming their community is surely a strong one. In the future, Peter and Martin might consider opening a similar place in other cities if they see the potential in it.

During our group ride, Peter rode the Reason model by Repete. Speaking about the differences between top-line racing bikes and custom-built handmade bicycles, Peter admits his view is slightly biased, given the fact that as a pro, he treated the bicycle simply as a tool to work with. This time he was looking for a completely different one, mainly for the sake of the comfort provided by steel, even if it weighs a few grams more than his racing bike.

Mallorca is undeniably the road cycling paradise, the favorite choice of most of the teams for their season preparation as well as many cycling enthusiasts to spend their holidays on a bike. Nonetheless, Peter sees it from a different point of view. “Once you get to do a training camp 3 or 4 times each season there, you get a bit fed up,” he adds jokingly, although admitting it is his favorite European cycling destination. Nice, which we covered in our article in the series of Places to Ride, is among his favorites too. Overall, California tops his list of favorite cycling destinations though. With its mostly sunny weather, choice of both hilly and flat routes, it simply makes the perfect location, and he likes coming back for vacation.

Peter left a positive impression on us that although his professional cycling days are over, he found a way through his business to remain closely engaged with the world of cycling that gives him a new perspective on the sport he loves.

Translation: Javi Angulo
Photos: Lukas Neasi