Tuesday, January 18, 2022
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Yanto Barker – the Man Behind the Le Col Brand

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The new Bahrain McLaren team colour scheme for the team’s jerseys and bikes is hard to miss; but it was the little ‘LE COL’ logo that interested us. ‘Le Col’ is the clothing company founded and run by British ex-pro, Yanto Barker.

We found out more about outfitting a World Tour team and the man behind the brand.

You were a successful pro for a decade and more, Yanto; what would you rate as the ‘highs’ of your career?

“I did many races around the world and many stand out for lots of different reasons, even some training days were memorable – usually linked to good sensations or a beautiful place to ride.

“The highs are probably associated with representing my country; puting on a Team GB jersey is a real honour.

“Together with standing on the podium of the National Road Race championship, which I did next to Russel Downing and Steve Cummings in 2005.”

Yanto Barker
Yanto Barker won the Lincoln GP in 2014. Photo©Andy Jones

And the “lows”?

“One of the lowest lows I can remember – again of which there were many – was realising I had broken my frame at the National Championships in 2003.

“I was devastated half-way through the race, having to stop and retire because I didn’t have a spare bike.”

Any regrets?

“I think I am lucky on this one – no!

“But that is not to say I wouldn’t do a few things differently with hindsight but I don’t dwell on those choices.

“I maintain I made all the best choices I could with the information I had at the time, that is all one can do in life.

“I’m quite a deliberate and thoughtful person so most of the big choices were well thought-through and then implemented with full conviction.

“That is my style; no half measures.”

Yanto Barker
Yanto Barker has made sure his Le Col clothing is top quality. Photo©Le Col

Which brand(s) of clothing did you race in?

“Many; Giordana, Sportful, Imp Sport, Santini, Nalini, Altura, and many less known brands.

“Clothing back then was not what it is now, things have moved on a lot.”

Was it shortcomings in the clothing that you trained and raced in which prompted you to get into cycling clothing manufacture?

“Yes, partly.

“I had some good kit in my racing years too, but the decision to go into this industry was more around the fact that I could see a way to get started and scale the business without needing lots of investment money or necessarily having that much experience.

“I had no manufacturing or business experience when I started.”

Yanto Barker
Yanto Barker began Le Col in 2001. Photo©Le Col

Assos, Castelli, Rapha, Santini – it’s a crowded market at the top end is it not?

“You say that but I don’t completely agree…

“With some context I would explain it like this:

“If you only count those brands at our price point, you eliminate Santini and you’re only really talking about three other brands that dominate the market; Assos, Castelli and Rapha, and two of them run a very old fashioned distributor / retail model with no direct channel to the end user.

“The direct-to-consumer model – whilst stronger once you get it going – is harder to start, but the brand has a much more direct and strong relationship with the consumer once it is working, so I think we have a good opportunity to compete with the brands on that basis.

“Last of all, there are few brands in the world that can really call on proper technical credentials.

“To elaborate; there are 18 World Tour Teams and 12 individual apparel brands that service them so to have a contract with a World Tour team is a huge asset that sets you apart – if you can activate it well.

“We recently announced our partnership with the Bahrain-McLaren World Tour Team and we’re steeped in technical heritage with my own career and with the Ambassadorship of Bradley Wiggins.”

What are Le Col‘s Unique Selling Propositions?

“Direct to consumer, technical products, with our own manufacturing facility in Italy.

“Each one is not unique in isolation but the combination is certainly unique.”

Yanto Barker
Le Col are the clothing suppliers for World Tour team Bahrain McLaren in 2020. Photo©Le Col

How did the Bahrain deal come to pass?

“A very positive conversation with the MD of cycling there John Allert, who is a really great guy.

“We had initial conversations and it seemed a very good fit and that is how it stayed right through the contract negotiations.

“Neither of us encountered any issues with the various clauses and we were able to sign the deal in the summer.”

Is your name on a World Tour jersey an essential part of your marketing strategy?

“I wouldn’t say it is ‘essential’ but it has always been part of the big plan for me since I started.

“I am really pleased to have finally pulled it off – and with such a great team. I am genuinely excited for the 2020 season to start and we can watch them race!”