A world-leading manufacturer of latex foam components for the bedding industry, Latexco is an old and trustworthy partner of Etixx – Quick-Step Cycling Team for more than 20 years. Latexco combines the flexibility and responsibility of a family company with the power of an international player, a position it acquired over the years, since getting involved in cycling. As a co-sponsor of the Etixx – Quick-Step, Latexco ensures that the riders can sleep on their own individual latex mattress during the most testing races in the world. Over the past few seasons, this initiative has contributed to the cyclists' very good results. It will, no doubt, continue to do so in the future.
Recently, we paid a visit to our most loyal sponsor Latexco, a real family business based in Tielt, the west of Flanders. Let's get to know the people behind the business, Luc Maes and his daughter, Carole.
Cycling fans by heart.
Luc Maes was born in Tielt, 74 years ago.
I've always had a passion for cycling, I love riding the bike myself.
I still ride it a few days a week, as it keeps me fit.
So it wasn't actually a big surprise when we decided to make our way as a sponsor into the cycling world, 22 years ago.
How did it all start? Well, actually it started through a friend, Noel De Meulenaere, a cycling patron and a terrific business man.
He introduced me to the world of cycling. He started a few teams through the years himself, so for me he was the perfect guide.
We began in 1993 with GB-MG, the Belgian-Italian team, and later we went to the legendary Mapei team; after Mapei we moved to Domo – Farmfrites and then Quick Step, where we were secondary sponsor for a few years with Innergetic. You can say that we followed Patrick Lefevere.
We have huge trust in him, he is very loyal to his sponsors and the way he brings these big sponsors together is great.
As for me, I like to do my sponsoring with the big names in the business, like Frans De Cock from Quick Step and Marc Coucke from Omega Pharma and get to know these people.
This is always interesting.
So why invest in the cycling world? Because it's the best way to reach many people with your brand, not only in Europe, but also worldwide.
It's a good way to connect to your clients. To get to know them in a different way.
My late wife was also a big cycling fan. It's definitely because of her we are still in the cycling world.
I don't really remember which was my first race, but I still remember how that day went.
I was in the car with Patrick Lefevere, who back then was sport director.
It was a great day, being in the car, in the thick of the action, hearing the riders over the radio... I will never forget it.
The most beautiful moment for me was the World Championships in Lugano, in 1996, when Johan Museeuw won.
We were supposed to leave right after the race, I had the taxi waiting, the plane, everybody was ready to go.
And then Johan Museeuw won!
We canceled everything and went to party that night. Those were the days, I loved it!
(A present from Johan Museeuw - This is in the office where we have a real Johan Museeuw conference room)
I think there is good relation between our product and the cyclists.
We all know that you have to be well rested to get a good performance.
I always say "be aware of those who are well rested."
A good night's rest is very important, that's why we go with our mattresses to the Tour the France.
In every hotel we change the mattresses with ours. All the riders have their own mattress and pillow from us.
And they love it. Imagine coming into your hotel room after a tough Tour de France mountain stage and having an uncomfortable bed...
So we bring our contribution to their rest.
We customize the mattresses for the riders; for instance, to Stijn Vandenbergh we make them longer.
You win the race in your bed, that is what we say!
I'm very happy my daughter Carole inherited the love for cycling, because now it's up to the next generation!
(Michal Golas during this year's Tour de France)
Carole Maes, 39 years.
I grew up in a house of hard working people, but with a passion for cycling.
So it's only logical that I inherited it.
I do not cycle myself, but passively I enjoy watching all the races.
I try to go to some races with the team to support them and I always love it when I'm there.
There is a special kind of feeling to it, the atmosphere is unique.
I'm happy to be so close with the team and experience everything from the first row.
Watching all those people on the side of the road cheering for their favorite riders, drinking beer, eating hamburgers... it's so great to see all these.
Cycling is a religion here in Belgium, but it's also nice to see how international it has become.
For a company as ours, this is really important.
I love going to the races, for instance, to the other side of the world where we also have our customers and in this way it's great to invite them to the race and get to know them.
Probably this would be a lot harder if we wouldn't be sponsoring this team.
I was pretty young the first time I went to a race, it was close to where I lived.
My favorite race is Paris-Roubaix!
I was once in the car with Wilfried Peeters during Paris-Roubaix, that was amazing!
Going over those cobbles with the car, all the dust, riders coming from all sides and that tension in the car... that was truly crazy!
We didn't win that day, but it's an experience I will never forget!
In 2005 we had a great party organized for Tom Boonen after Paris-Roubaix at our factories in Tielt.
But there had been an accident on the road, so it was impossible for Tom Boonen to arrive on time from where he lived.
So as quickly as we could we chartered a helicopter to pick him up from his home and bring him to the factories.
(Tom Boonen visiting the Latexco factory)
He landed right in the gardens next to our buildings.
You should have seen that, all of our employees came outside to watch Tom Boonen land.
It was like the King had arrived!
We made him a big cake and celebrated his victories.
In the evening he left again with the helicopter, up in the sky and he was gone.
That was a nice day!
My mother was also a very big cycling fan.
Every year she looked forward to the Tour de France, as she used to link the race with her vacation.
Her favorite city during the Tour de France was always Pau.
The team stays there in a very small hotel on the main square.
It was small, but nice, and with a good restaurant next to it; we would sit on the terrace all evening, talking with the team and the owner of the hotel.
It was always a very nice atmosphere. The team still goes there when the Tour passes through Pau.
For her these were the glory days.
During the race, my father would go in the car of the sport director and my mother would go in the car with Patrick Lefevere, ahead of the race.
She talked about everything with Patrick, her entire life, and she loved it.
This year when the team was in Pau I went there together with my father.
My mother would have wanted us to go on with this tradition, so we did.
This is cycling and it is so much more than the race alone.
Great memories come with it and that's why we are sponsoring the team for the 23rd year next season.
(Luc Maes, Patrick Lefevere and Carole Maes at the signing of the contract for the 23rd year)