PEZ: What’s your background, Dave?
I’m 43 years-old, hail from Marin County, north of San Francisco and have a degree in 19th century French literature. I learned French at school but really got the language when I went back packing in France. It was to be two month trip but I stayed for two years! I went in to the travel business and started working for EUROPEDS in 1995; I bought the business in 2000.
Dave Martin with his latest group that enjoyed the finale of the Tour de France.
PEZ: How do you frame your itinerary?
My philosophy is to get my locations sorted out the previous October – as soon as the route is announced. This cafe we’re sitting in, here in Pauillac – I was sitting here last October. I study the route for at least half a day and then I concentrate on the time trials and the mountains, those are the best experiences for my clients. This year it was the Pyrenees and this time trial that I settled on.
PEZ: How do you get the best places?
I’ve been doing this a long time, I know a lot of people and I drive around France, a lot. It’s a combination of luck and intelligence, I guess – but I always put deposits on the rooms to guarantee them.
PEZ: How many trips per year?
Seven to ten, the Tour de France is the only one organised around a bike race; but we’re seriously considering a Giro trip. We go to Italy already, Spain and Vietnam. That’s a hard trip – 60 miles per day on mountain bikes over hills on rough roads.
PEZ: What’s your favourite part of France, and why?
The Dordogne Valley, I rate it the best cycling area in the world. The food is wonderful, it’s beautiful and the history is amazing – the prehistoric cave paintings, for example. I visit a couple of times each year, to ‘decompress’ – and I’ve been doing that for 15 or 20 years.
PEZ: Your typical client?
It’s changing, we used to do a lot more ‘softy’ stuff on hybrids and really plush hotels. Now it’s more folks who worry less about the hotel and more about good food, good routes and a bed – the hotel isn’t as important. We also do small custom tours for groups of four to six who want to ride the roads the Tour does, but not at Tour time – September is a lovely time of year in France. We arrange bikes, a van, a guide, accommodation and routes of maybe 70 to 80 miles per day.
PEZ: How do you get your business?
From internet advertising and a lot of word of mouth – three clients on this trip are previous customers.
PEZ: Diplomacy must be one of your skills?
It’s the most stimulating work I’ve ever done – you’re a shrink, a psychologist, a historian, a translator and you have to be able to calm hoteliers down, sometimes.
PEZ: On rain days?
We sit in a bar, watch the race on TV and drink beer!
PEZ: The Lance factor?
After 9/11 we took a massive hit, I had to close the office, lay off staff and work from home. But Lance’s success started to bring folks in, and from 2002 to 2007 our Tour trips went from being 5 to 10% of our business to 40 to 50% with 2004 as our best year ever. And yeah, his comeback helped.
PEZ: How do you keep ahead of the competition?
In the old days, when I was young and naпve, I wanted to be the biggest. But now we’ve adopted the ’boutique’ approach, small is agile. I admire some of the big operators and I never disrespect the opposition – but I think EUROPEDS offers a lot – we’ve been around for 30 years, after all.
PEZ: Walking holidays?
Yes, in Provence and the Dordogne, they’re nice trips, I do them myself. We do walking/cooking trips and ‘combos’ where there’s walking and cycling.
PEZ: Your Cannondales are nice.
Cannondale have been very good with me, they’re 6 Carbon 105’s – I keep them over here at our office. A lot of my clients hire them because the cost of transporting bikes across the Atlantic has become prohibitive. And they like to ride a good carbon frame and fork – we fit triple chain rings because of the mountain rides we do.
PEZ: And who’s your favourite Tour rider?
I loved Virenque, I was a Lance fan – he did a lot for my business ! – and now, I’d say Chris Horner, he’s not flashy and is very approachable – he’s having probably having his best season, ever.
PEZ: And how do you stay so skinny with all that fine French food?
I stay on my bike and I ride in the Pyrenees!
• Ed Hood stayed several nights with Europeds during the final week of this year’s Tour, and can certainly recommend the hotels – and all of Dave’s clients seemed to be having the time of their lives. For more, check out www.EUROPEDS.com