It's a pleasure to work with Julien Verlay. That's why Festka is not the only company that has engaged his likeable personality and excellent communication skills to build awareness of their brands in the last six years.
Cycling hasn't always been Julien's favourite sport. Put off cycling by having to crawl behind his bike-loving dad in the family car as a kid, he picked judo early on and stuck with it all the way to high school. Then, inevitably, came some skateboarding, and it wasn't until he started to commute to his first place of work that he thought a bike would be better means of transport than the Metro.
The fixie he rode on his commutes soon won his heart. So much so that he started riding it for fun, too. It didn't take long till he was organising group rides and events under the umbrella of his first club called Street Pistard. The first notable event for road bikes he put together was the 9 Hours of Longchamp amateur race for teams of three which he organised three times in a row starting from 2014. Keen on trying various cycling disciplines, he rode on track regularly for a while. and he also participated in various ultra distance races such as Paris-Brest-Paris (2015) and Born to Ride (2017 & 2018). In 2018 took part in the Titan Desert Morocco MTB race covering 620 km in six days in the Sahara.
It came as no surprise Julien got noticed by the people in charge of expanding the Rapha Cycling Club. He became the brand's ambassador in 2014, organising events and connecting cyclists until the CC's big shake-up in 2018. It was while he was still in his position with Rapha that he got invited to participate in an Haute Route event. Having enjoyed it and met the organisers, it didn't take long before he got asked to join the organisation. It was roughly at the same time that Maap, the Australian cycling apparel brand, invited him to join its growing family. In his second year with Haute Route, the covid pandemic started and he is the first to admit that the two months of lockdown he spent there working as market manager for France and the UK were tough. So much so that he even started to take a barista course to be ready if an opportunity came to realise one of his ambitions – opening a velocafé business.
However, things picked up again soon. Being good with words and writing, as testified to by the wonderful blog posts on his website La Tête et les Jambes, Julien started a transition into marketing and communication work. After a brief period working freelance for the UCI Track Champions League he landed a full-time job with Discovery Sport Events.
Riding a bike still remains Julien's favourite pastime. The Hitters Social Club of which he is a member is a collective of 70 strong cyclists based in Paris and Lyon. Supported by Mohawks Cycle, the French distributor of high-end brands such as ENVE, Chris King, Parlee and Maap, and affiliated with the French cycling federation, the club has a status that enables it to provide insurance for its riders. They get together regularly for Wednesday evening training rides and Friday coffee laps and participate in various one-day races including Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Race Across Paris – an ultra event with routes of 300 km, 500 km (won by one of the members in 2021) and 1000 km.
Julien's association with Festka goes back quite a long way. The bike that grabbed his attention in the first place was the spectacular pink chrome track machine that appeared in the media in 2011. Then he met one of Festka's first customers, the Rapha ambassador Stefan Rohner, and saw his fine-tuned steel Festka. After that, he got in touch with our then head of sales Dany Majard and soon became a proud owner of a Festka ONE. Since the summer of 2019, he has been riding a very swish Festka Scalatore.
Born and raised in Paris, Julien is very much at home on the roads of the world's favourite city. We asked him to take us on a ride that Parisian cyclists would consider typical.And he did! It was lovely, with a bit of everything thrown in: starting at Longchamp in the Bois de Boulogne, then heading out southwest to Versailles and on to Châteaufort where we turned back, retraced our pedal strokes to Versailles and then took an alternative route back into the centre where he took us on a bit of a sightseeing tour alongside the river Seine. And yes, there was, indeed, coffee at the end. And not just in any old café but the marvellous Storm Cycling Club located just a stone's throw from the Notre-Dame cathedral.
Here are a few more routes Julien recommended for anyone visiting Paris with a bike and time to ride.
And here's a parting recommendation from our man in Paris: "If you find yourselves in the city and feel like joining some locals for a ride just go to Longchamp. There you will always find a group of riders you can join."
written by: Janek Jaros
photos: Tom Hnida