Gareth Winter is a Senior Creative at Sky, Leblanq digital manager and Rouleur ambassador, so this feature was right down his street. "I have three significant obsessions: cycling, food and travel. I grew up in a family of old-school roadies, so I am deeply interested in cycling history and draw strength and inspiration from the major characters of the most beautiful sport in the world,” he says.
“When you reach a certain level in cycling, improvements become harder to find. I began paying attention to nutrition. As soon as I left home, I fell in love with cooking and experiencing new flavours (my parents are terrible cooks). I discovered parallels between cycling and cooking: they bring people together, open your mind, inspire you to travel, focus your attention, challenge you to look for continuous improvement."
Gareth’s dad Steven with Eddy Merckx at Eastway
"To celebrate Eddy's career on our first weekend, LeBlanq's Directeur Culinaire, Ashley Palmer-Watts is teaming up with Raymond Blanc to create a seven-course Tour de Feast."
For a story in issue 102 Rouleur, we paired seven Merckx stories to go alongside the delectable dishes. Who better than LeBlanq's Directeur Sportif Sean Yates and Sir Bradley Wiggins to talk about them and the great man? “Eddy played a role in Sean’s career, Sean and Eddy played a role in Brad’s, and the three of them have inspired countless cyclists around the world,” Gareth says.
"We set up a Zoom call with Sean, Brad and Ash; I don't think I have ever laughed so much. It would be selfish not to share our conversations with the cycling community. This is exactly why LeBlanq exists – to bring people together. About 95% of our Zoom call was hilariously off topic – Brad’s impressions are brilliant – and he even let a few funny stories about Sean slip out.”
Watch Bradley's brilliant impressions in the clip above - can you guess who they are?
As for illustrating the article, a lot of the old photographs of Merckx have all been seen before. But our photographer Michael Blann had the answer; he went hunting for vintage wallpaper to provide a 1970s bistrot aesthetic, while LeBlanq founder Justin Clarke sourced a vintage bottle of Champagne from partner Laurent-Perrier.
Meanwhile, Ashley Palmer-Watts cooked up a dish in keeping with the concept - turbot with asparagus dressed in a sharp Champagne vinegar sauce. “This dish was quite simple for Ash’s Michelin-starred capabilities and only required about one per cent of his skillset, but it had so many complexities on the palate," Gareth says.
Ash with the finishing touches. Photo: Michael Blann
The end result is a portrait of “The Cannibal” unlike any other, alongside a plate of food for readers to drool over.
“We jokingly described it as bike porn meets food porn, but that pretty much nails it," Gareth says.
Leblanq brings together legends of cycling and gastronomy to create once-in-a-lifetime weekends in stunning destinations. Visit their website at Leblanq.com