New Haven Cycling Headed For France

John Pescatore, New Haven’s own two-time Olympian, is already a fixture at Devil’s Gear and Sleeping Giant bike rides. Now he’s aiming to lead cycling trips in slightly higher hills—the French Pyrénées.

Pescatore (pictured) is hoping to spend more time on his bike in the French mountains this summer, not just for fun, but for profit. He’s just started a new business—Kingfisher Cycling—that will offer boutique bike tours in the Pyrénées.

Kingfisher, which launched last month, is offering week-long summer cycling trips based out of Bagnères-de-Luchon, a spa town in southwestern France.

Pescatore, who’s 50, hasn’t run his own business before. He said he has no fear of failure, that he’s throwing himself into the enterprise with the same dogged tenacity that took him to the Olympics three times. Pescatore competed as a rower in the 1988 and 1992 games, and coached a two-man rowing team at the 2000 Olympics.

When he took up rowing in high school in southern New Jersey, Pescatore discovered a love for the grueling endurance training the sport demands. At Penn, he became captain of his rowing team. He wasn’t the biggest or the strongest guy on the eight-man team, but he had good technique and rhythm, and leadership.

After college, Pescatore was on the national rowing team from 1986 to 1992. He was part of the eight-man team that won gold at the 1987 world championships, then came in third in the 1988 Olympics in Korea. In 1992, he was back at the Olympics in Barcelona, this time as part of a two-man team that took sixth in the final.

After teaching math and coaching high school rowing in San Francisco, Pescatore returned to the Olympics as a coach at the 2000 Sydney games, where his two-man team took silver.

In 2002, Pescatore arrived in New Haven to take over as head coach of the Yale rowing team. He quit in 2010 to be a stay-at-home dad for his teenaged twin boys. (His wife is also a former Olympic rower.)

Meanwhile, Pescatore took up cycling, a sport which shares an affinity with rowing for long hours of training. He began taking cycling trips with friends, biking in Canada, Ireland, Italy, Spain, and France, where he fell in love with the culture, the food, and the language.

“I’m a bit of a francophile now,” Pescatore said, over a chai latte at Maison Mathis on Elm Street. Pescatore said his love of France, combined with his years as a rower and rowing coach, prepare him for his new line of work. As a rower, he went all over the world to compete making him a seasoned global travel.

As a coach, he said, “you spend a huge chunk of your time as kind of like a travel agent.” When his athletes traveled to competitions, Pescatore would have to organize all the logistics, and make sure his rowers would be comfortable and happy, so that they would perform well.

“So I feel like I’ve done all of that,” he said.

Pescatore’s planned trips ($4,500 per person) will be based out of Bagnères-de-Luchon. “It’s a mountain town that’s just nestled in a U-shaped valley.” The cycling will consist of day-trips out of the town and into the surrounding mountains.

Pescatore said his clientele “will have to really enjoy cycling quite a bit.” Some of the rides will have tough parts. Lots of climbing. “Lots of turns. Lots of switchbacks.”

Pescatore said he’s prepared to help push people up the hills, riding by their side and putting his hand on the small of their back. “They can almost not pedal,” he said. “I can do that for one to five minutes.”

The Kingfisher trips will be limited to just four people, so that Pescatore can give everyone personal attention, he said.

“I have no fear of failure,” Pescatore said. He said that’s what made him a successful athlete. “People stop because they’re afraid of failure. You have to be immune to it.”

“I’m just going to go at it with brute force,” he said of his new business, “and not allow it to fail.”

After draining the last of his chai latte, Pesctore stepped outside to unlock his Breezer Uptown commuter bike. Before he pedaled off, he pulled of his traditional French casquette cap to show off the label inside: “Made In France.”

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