This year’s Trans-Provence was co-sponsored by Magic Rock Brewing, based in Huddersfield. Rich Norgate links the two, so Pete sat down and had a chat.
Photos by Sam Needham.
Beer and bicycles are one of the two things that make an awful lot of people tick. How does a reasonably-sized Huddersfield brewery come to be associated with a race like Mavic Trans-Provence?
Well, Rich Norgate worked as mountain staff at the race for 6 years running, and in 2017, decided it was time to see the race from the other side of the tape. He’s also the man responsible for the beer racers and staff alike would be quaffing of an evening.
Pete sat down with Rich under a gantry in the Maritime Alps to see how to the two came together.
So Rich, you’re competing yourself this year but you’ve worked behind the scenes for how many years?
I did 6 years on the bounce doing the mountain staff job. We time all the people out and then would go ride the stages ourselves. It’s a good job for being able to ride here.
What made you race this year?
I wanted to see what it was like on the other side. The early starts, the heavy drinking in the evenings! I imagined it would be much more stressful than working, riding the stages in one go and all that. I’ve always ridden my bike up hills and home in Huddersfield and I’ve done a few races so I thought it would be a good thing to do!
Magic Rock is the the only non bike industry sponsor for the event. How did that come about? What’s the connection?
I’ve known Ash for a long time and I guided for him in France. Six years ago I told him about my new job as a freelance designer for a brewery in Huddersfield… As the brewery has grown so has my job.
Myself and the brewery owner Rich both ride bikes and we like the idea of linking ourselves to cycling events and doing our own things with cycling. It came about with last year Ash got in touch and realised that we had a small package offering of cans so it was easy to get the beer over through our French importer.
He got in touch with us quite late on and we sent out two of our core beers but we didn’t have a chance to do any bespoke. After the event I said I might race it but we should have bespoke label (it’s not feasible for us to do a totally bespoke beer for the amount of beer we brew in one go, which is colossal and the amount Ash needs isn’t enough). We could offer a relabelled beer that’s perfectly suitable for an event. We talked about it a little bit and I had a few ideas.
Sam Needham who does all of our photography had worked on the TP for a long time and we’re good friends. I had an idea of wanting to use his photos in our art work. The imagery of the race really encapsulates the feel of the race. I don’t think you can achieve that with just graphics.
I spoke to Ash and Sam who came up with the name of the beer which is based around Elevation Drop which is what the race is all about. I looked at Sam’s images and there was a photo pf Rob Doddsworth, who works at Hope, gurning which I thought would be a nice starting point to draw a character that’s based on his face. I try to use reference points in my artwork if there’s a person or a certain characteristic.
You have to include quite a lot of legal information on beer which can take up a lot of space so we thought a peel and read label would be good but what that meant was you have 3x the space so we had an opportunity to put in some information on the race, a route profile to tell people where we’re going without giving too much away.
There’s a few different techniques within the label like an over-varnish of contours within the label which gives a sort of relief feel when you rub your fingers over it.
What’s the name of the beer?
I think you pronounce it… You’ll have to ask Ash. It means Elevation Drop in French. Like if you were going for a walk in the UK you’ll say “oh the elevation drop today is going to be 2000m”, which I don’t actually think is possible in the UK!
How did you choose which beer to use?
Obviously we do a lot of keg ales as opposed to Pilsners which are heavily carbonated. We’ve got a West Coast pale ale which is called High Wire which is a 5.5% mutliple hop pale ale. It’s got 5 hops in it, mosaic, centennial, chinnook, citra and… I can’t remember the last one!
It’s kind of like a nicely pitched percentage, it’s refreshing, it’s carbonated plus it’s a really solid style so would be good for everybody. The percentage is important… Last year Ash took our IPA Cannonball off us last year which is 7.4%. The staff were drinking it last year and everyone was pissed before they even knew it, no one wants to be drinking that after a day’s racing! You’d be drunk from the feet up!
And you mention you had a reference point for the art work, how did that process go to turn into what it looks like?
It’s good for us to be involved in these sort of things. A big part of this week is that it’s an adventure. A lot of people here are to have a good time on the bike and want to relax and have a few drinks. Our beer lets them have a nice drink afterwards that isn’t full of chemicals or full of crap.
And for anyone that doesn’t know Magic Rock brewery?
We’re a brewery based in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. We brew lots of different types and styles of beer from big hop IPAs to Sours to stouts and porters. We experiment quite a bit. We’re quite a big brewery now in terms of our size and scale. We have roughly 24 employees. It was started by Richard Burhouse 6 years ago and 3 of us set it up and now we’ve grown to a bigger scale.
We have a tap room on site for customers to come and drink at. The passion for cycling is big and we try to do lots of things around cycling, we’re showing a slideshow of Sam’s works at out Bike Day festival on the 9th of July in our Taproom. We make beer that hopefully people like to enjoy and maybe try to get people excited about beer and turn them onto new styles!
This is your first year racing, what did you make of it?
I suppose being from Huddersfield we’ve had quite a good summer. We’re currently sat under a stage because it’s so hot. I’ve struggled with the heat! I’m not used to this relentless battle! It’s been a different experience not working it and racing it. I’ve tried to be consistent through the week, it’s easy to smash yourself up.
My bike, an Orange Stage 6, is still working alright! I’m enjoying it! It’s much more relaxed than an Enduro World Series or a race at home. Everyone’s chilled out, the majority are here to enjoy it not stress out. The setup is great, Ash runs it great. The camping and food, the mechanics from Mavic are really good. The media guys work their tits off. I’m looking forward to the beach!
And how are you going to enter the Mediterranean?
I think I’ll go for a pencil dive. The problem is that the Med is really salty, if you’ve chaffed your arse all week, that’s going to sting. It’s got to be done though! We’ll have a few beers on the beach and go back and have a few more beers!