As part of our In the Spotlight features, this time The Birmingham Gazette caught up with Mike Cotty, a professional cyclist, brand ambassador and founder of Media 24. Along Mike’s epic career path he has undertaken a multitude of pioneering ultra endurance challenges including The Road to Mont Blanc, 1,000km, 21 mountain, non-stop crossing of the Dolomites and Alps supported by Mavic.
Born in Benoni, South Africa Mike stayed there until he was three before returning to the UK, growing up in Romsey, just on the edge of the New Forest in Hampshire.
Even as a young boy, Mike was always destined to ride. Early memories are of his father taking him out to a nearby field in the summertime, – the perfect setting for the stabilisers to come off.
“It’s still one of my most treasured memories” Mike recalls. “The uncertainty of balance as my dad let go of the bike followed by the adrenaline kicking in….well, at least for a few frantic pedal strokes until I nose dived head first into the long grass. Even at five years old I was hooked, riding made me feel free.”
As the years went by Mike could always be found on his bike. “It makes me laugh when I look back now, 11 years old and being paid to ride my bike! I loved that paper round. The local bike shop got a pretty good deal back then too as most of my wages went straight to them as a I craved for the latest anodised component or upgrade.”
In the mid 90’s craze of mountain biking, as the sport was really taking off, Mike began attending all of the local events. “There was a certain buzz back in the day that’s hard to replicate nowadays. Everything seemed so raw and cool. Fashion didn’t come into it either, fluoro lycra was where it was at!”
At school, Mike became hooked on football, but nothing could stop the allure of the bicycle taking centre stage, and it wasn’t long before he began competing in local competitions.
“Something about the bike inspired me. Maybe it was the individuality of being in complete control of your exertion, no teammates to hide behind when things got tough. Even at that age I remember being fascinated by what the body and mind could accomplish if you really focussed on a goal.”
Although Mike never stopped cycling he realised the importance of gaining qualifications so in 2000 he qualified as a mechanical design engineer whilst working for BAE Systems.
In life, some people get to where they want to be, but it takes guts and originality. Mike knew that if he wanted a truly rewarding and innovative career he would have to do things differently.
Finding a dream job with Cannondale, Mike understood a CV just wouldn’t cut it. “I ended up creating a fully interactive presentation together that started as soon as you put the CD into the computer accompanied by the background sounds of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. I figured everyone likes the Chilis and since I didn’t have any outstanding experience to shout about I’d have to start now by marketing myself in a different way to everyone else. It’s pretty funny when I look back now, that presentation caused quite a stir at the time. I worked for Cannondale for over 12 years with the first 4.5 years in Europe. It was a serious fast track to life in the real world, not just moving out of home but to a foreign country as well. I had a true love for the brand which meant that I never really felt like I was working for them.”
Throughout his career Mike has worked with and become friends with many of the greatest riders in the sport such as Ivan Basso (twice winner of the Giro d’Italia) and Peter Sagan (three times winner of the Tour de France green jersey). Now a leading entrepreneur in the world of cycling, Mike is a brand ambassador and founder at Media 24.
“For the last couple of years we’ve worked really closely with the Cannondale Pro Cycling Team to produce a series of personality style videos for their riders. For me it’s really important to work with brands that I personally use and that I’ve found have helped enhance my riding experience in one way or another along the way. We work with numerous brands, from nutrition with Torq Fitness through to tooling from Lezyne it makes everything that we do much easier if we genuinely have an affiliation with the brand.”
As fellow riders, at the Gazette we know that cycling is without doubt one of the best forms of exercise, but why is that?
“There are many wonderful ways to get a regular endorphin buzz from exercise but from a very early age I always found cycling to be an incredible way to explore and escape,” said Mike. “You can start off nice and gently, just absorbing the day or put your head down and stretch your limits whilst covering huge distances in the process. It’s excellent for your legs and lungs and since it is a non weight bearing sport it’s also kind to your body which means you can cycle day after day with less chance of injury.”
Getting to know Mike has been a journey in itself, but what about some of his favourite rides around the world?
“Wow, what a question! There are so many truly unbelievable places to ride it’s hard to pick one. The Alps, Pyrénées and Dolomites all have some serious roads to get you smiling from ear to ear. Earlier in the year I had the opportunity to ride in Slovenia for the first time and I have to say it was absolutely stunning with an air of tranquility that’s hard to find now. Then there’s the U.S. which has a huge diversity of cycling opportunities, I’ve yet to experience Japan but it’s definitely on the list. I think the best way to answer the question is to say “it’s still work in progress” 😉
And finally, what lies next for the man who can?
“For the last couple of years we’ve been working towards bringing to life a project called
The Col Collective, a free online resource to help inspire and educate cyclists to reach the summit of the greatest mountain passes in the world, including advice and support from many of the expert brands that we represent or work with. I wanted to try and bring the mountains to life in a way that hasn’t been seen before whilst also offering a platform that’s really interactive in the way that it supports cyclists to reach their goals. It’s been exciting to bring it all together and use my knowledge and experience to help as many cyclists as possible. We’ve been doing that in one way, shape or form for many years now but The Col Collective is really going to take what we have been doing a step further.