This is an interview by Helen Harris (Pedalnorth’s Deputy Editor: Ladies Cycling)
Today I had the privilege of talking with former international triathlete, former-sports journalist at Eurosport, and co-founder of G4 cycling & casual wear company, Petra Harangi. It was a pleasure to interview her; she’s warm, funny and takes the drive and dedication from her sporting background into everything she does. I hope to catch up with her in the future to hear more about the direction she and her partner Geoffroy Lequatre take G4, and their successes along the way.
Pedal North: Our readers will recognise you as a presenter from Eurosport’s Tour de France coverage. Through this role you’ve had access to some big names in cycling at some of the most exciting times in their careers. Who was your most memorable experience with and what made it so?
Petra: I had a good opportunity to work with Eurosport International. The challenge for them was they wanted to find a female reporter who knew a lot about the riders, knew about cycling, the training, the techniques, the fashion and everything so it was a really nice time for me to be involved. I did the Tour and the World Championships for several years. I used to do live interviews at the start and finish with the riders and the team directors. They are really nice people but I think when you see the riders on TV they are quite different and everyone is asking the same questions, the challenge was to find questions no-one else is asking. If you could find these questions then they were really nice, because if they have to keep repeating themselves at each interview they get bored. So I tried my best to keep it interesting.
I met a lot of nice people, not only the riders, but the team staff and a lot of nice journalists too. I made a super friend who was also my cameraman; he’s my lifetime friend, so this is probably one of my best experiences. I loved to do the interviews too; I loved it when the riders were joking. I tried to make it a little more fun for them so these are the best memories I have from that time.
Pedal North: Before you embarked on your career as a sports journalist you were a successful athlete , starting with swimming at the tender age of 6. Did you cycle much as a kid?
Petra: You know everybody has to learn to cycle to ride a bike. I cycled together, with my brothers and my parents on the weekends. I stopped swimming at almost 13 when I started doing triathlons with my twin brother, who is still doing Ironman races. I did triathlon for ten years competing at a high level. I was in the national team for Hungary, I did several European, World Championship and World Cup races. I participated also in a few cycling races as preparation for the triathlon events. I did a few track races. We had a cycling coach who believed that that although there was no drafting in triathlons at that time, we should still know how to cycle in a race. He felt it was an important preparation for us so we had to participate as part of our training.
Pedal North: How old were you when you entered your first triathlon and how did you do?
Petra: I was 14, I think I came 3rd or second, I wasn’t even competing at the junior level at that time, I think it was the category before that. I crashed on my first race! There were no helmets at the time so I cut my head, but there was nothing broken, just a little blood. I had a few injuries! My parents weren’t with me that day so the parents of a girl there took me home. I was quite good in the event because I was a fast swimmer, the cycling was ok, I was in good condition for it and the same for running.
Pedal North: So the crash didn’t put you off cycling then?
Petra: Oh no, I was quite motivated, we had a wonderful coach. He was very good with us, gave us good motivation. With my brothers we were really well placed in each race, always on the podium, almost automatically.
I have a really sporty family. My father was a swimmer, my mother played Volleyball so we had no choice, we had to do some sport. It didn’t matter what, but we had to do sport. There was no free time for hanging about in the street; we had to do a sport every day.
Pedal North: Someone recently suggested that I should give triathlons a go on the basis that they viewed my cycling as reasonably strong and in their opinion I’d probably do well. I laughed because my swimming technique is utterly appalling.
Petra: Ah yes, without technique you cannot swim well!
Pedal North: Those I know who compete at amateur level all have a discipline they favour and one they least look forward to. As a professional athlete, was this the same for you? If so which did you prefer and which did you dread and why?
Petra: I like triathlon because you have three sports to change between. I liked swimming but compared to triathlon it was quite boring. I loved the friends I made in the clubs and the teams. I had a lot of friends around me so even if it was a boring sport I had a lot of fun. I like challenges too. I always had a goal to compete or achieve and you have train and to work hard to achieve those goals. Swimming was really easy as that’s what I started doing first. Cycling I loved because you’re amongst nature and you can look around and enjoy that as you train. I loved running too; if you wanted to, you could just go out for an easy run to clear your head. I don’t think I really have a preference for one sport, but the only thing I didn’t like was track training on the running side of things; I hated it!
Pedal North: What’s the hardest bike ride you’ve ever completed and why?
Petra: Hmmmm, I think with this particular ride I wasn’t trained well for it! I did two times as an amateur the Étape Du Tour. The first time was up Mont Ventoux. I had a really nice time. I went with a friend who was a triathlete too, and after the race we watched the Tour De France where Geoffroy was competing. My friend was also the boss of a big company he had enjoyed the cycling so much he decided to invested in a professional cycling team so for me it was a really nice result, to see the cycling passion in someone.
The second time, I was suffering a lot! It was in the Pyrenees with the Tourmalet and I had maybe only 800 kilometres in my legs so I was not well prepared. Geoffroy and his friend Sebastian Chavanel were not doing the Tour Du France that year so they decided to come with me for the whole day! The difference was that they had, I don’t know, 20,000 kilometres in their legs? And me just 800! We got a VIP place so we were in the first line at the start. The first hour from the start felt like a 100% effort for me and they were finding it easy! Then I decided to go alone until the beginning of the Tourmalet to try to recover but it was still hard. I did around 120 or 140 kilometres with a mass of riders before reaching the climb where Geoffroy and Sebastian were waiting for me and we did the Tourmalet together. They were helping me, pushing me. This was the worst event for me, even though it wasn’t a professional race, I felt completely dead at the end and I told them never again!
So this was my last event. And now with G4 I don’t have a lot of time to prepare so I prefer just to go out cycling with friends and maybe do some relays but not adapting, not taking the challenge of a race. I’m missing interval training, I’m missing a lot of things so I’m just trying to keep my condition, my how would you say, my silhouette?
Pedal North: Ah yes! And cycling is very good for that! Whilst competing, what motivated you most to succeed?
Petra: The result! I did several European Champs and World Champs because I wanted it to be easy for the selection for the Olympic Games in Sydney so this is like a dream for athletes, to compete at the Olympics.
Pedal North: What was the best piece of training advice you received and from whom?
Petra: That’s a good question! I love the theory and technique of training, the different methods. I had quite a lot of coaches because I was training in Hungary and the Netherlands, most of my coaches I love them, they were really professional. My first cycling coach in Hungary was really nice. My swimming coach really focussed on technique and I loved it, we would make a little competition on who had the nicest style and technique. I loved the two coaches I had in the Netherlands. One trains with professional teams Team Lotto Jumbo NL so I had the chance to train with really good coaches I think and I got a lot of good advice from all of them.
Pedal North: At Pedal North we’re obviously all about the cycling, in all forms. You’re no longer competing but you still get cycle for pleasure, so when you get the opportunity where is your favourite place to ride?
Petra: For the moment I am living in Nice so my favourite place is around here. I have one 60 kilometre lap between St Paul de Vence, Tourette sur Loup and Vence that I like. And my second route is in the Esterel hills, between Mandelieu and Frejus. I really love these mountains.
Pedal North: What bike do you ride and what do you love most about it?
Petra: I had the chance to get a Trek Silque minimalist style bike. Since I am not a professional I really love to have nice stuff, I like design so I wanted to have with nothing on it. My bike is a silver colour with Shimano Ultegra Di2 drivetrain and I really love it. And now I am hoping I will get a new bike, a ladies Scott bike which I chose with Geoffroy to match our new clothes!
Pedal North: A girl after my own heart!
Petra: But as with everybody, I like to have nice bikes, even if sometimes this costs a lot of money. But this is our passion. We have a high quality cycling brand so we have to make sure our presentation matches that brand too.
Pedal North: Along with your partner, Geoffroy Lequatre you have created a strong brand in your cycling and casual clothing company G4 Dimension which was born in 2010. Where do you take your design inspiration from?
Petra: Geoffroy does all the design, he was born with that gift! He loves fashion. He was a professional cyclist for 12 years and doesn’t really like to wear clothes that are not nice so he decided that if he was going to do something it would have to be nice! And from a technical perspective he tests everything. I also test a lot of things because we have a different point of view and we have a lot of friends who are professional and amateur riders to give us feedback. Geoffroy has also been to design school, last year in Marseille when he finished his cycling career and now he is doing a stylists course because he wants to do the best job he can.
So really he is the one that has the inspiration, I just tell him “I like it”, “I don’t like it”. I don’t do a lot on the design side really.
Pedal North: G4 Dimension has expanded their women’s cycling range. Women can have vastly differing tastes from one another. Do you find it a difficult market to cater for or is it easier for you as a female cyclist because you have more understanding of what they’re looking for?
Petra: I think it’s a good time for us to have a larger range of women’s clothing because there are more and more women getting in to cycling. For me it’s easier to speak with a woman about a product because they love fashion and they don’t like to wear the same thing all the time. We try to make designs to the taste of everybody but also something different to suit their mood that day. If you like to be elegant today you can choose something elegant from the range. If you would like to have some fun with colours you can choose from our colour collection.
The difficulty is that the cycling world is dominated by men and they think women are complicated. I think that men make us complicated! In the retail and distribution side of things there are also a lot of men and they choose the designs for women and I would like to see more women in that role but for the moment we have to wait for more female involvement in the companies.
It’s ok … But even though our ladies range is designed by a man its quite different from other brands, as at BIG Fashion brands… when you hang our garments in shop you can see immediately that they are different so half of the work is done for you.
Pedal North: You and Geoffroy both feature as models for your cycling ranges and look fantastic whilst doing it. Have you any tips for our ladies on how to look supercool in their Lycra too?
Petra: I think if you buy G4 it’s quite easy! But I think I have two pieces of advice really. I think you have to dress following the colours of your bike, or you have to be completely different. For me it’s important to have a link between the jersey, shorts and accessories. Don’t mix different styles and colours, because then it will, I don’t know how to say this in English, but like a firework has gone off?! And it’s too much all at once.
Pedal North: G4 Dimension has had a subtle but growing presence on the pro-circuit for some time now; casual wear for Geoffroy’s team, the Eurosport journalism team and then a season’s collaboration with Cannondale to clothe the riders and support team in their down time. What’s next for G4 Dimension?
Petra: It’s a surprise!! But really, you never know because life brings a lot of projects. We are looking to come back in to the professional field but we need to find a team we feel fits with our image but who are also open to work with us and give us a free hand in the design; as we are design led this is really important for us. We also want to develop the best high performance clothing for the riders. The ideal team would also have to love fashion, not just on the bike, but before and after, they should like to be seen in nice clothes.
It sounds silly, but at the moment not everybody has this appreciation, or a modern mentality when it comes to fashion. If we don’t feel there is possibility within a team at present we would prefer to wait.
The next thing is to take a bigger step in the distribution, to expand in to more countries and let’s see what the future brings!
At the end of the interview we talked a little more about the current ranges available through G4; the stylish and classic looking King and Queen range with it’s delicate white and gold embroidered detailing; the fluor range with bright flashes of colour. Each collection is available for a minimum of two-years period with a new range introduced each year for a season. The Queen collection is proving more popular in its second year and Petra surmises that this was possibly because when it first launched the design was considered a little avante-garde. But the fluor options are also doing well because people love the added visibility the fluorescent colours give them. If you’re looking for a high quality brand that seeks perfection in everything it does and offers something a little different you won’t go far wrong with G4.