Gravel Culture: Il Magistrale Cycling Coffee

Posted By Gravel Union On 26 March 2021

The link between coffee and cycling is so well established as to barely need mentioning. For this reason, many coffee companies have a tie-in with the sport, but we’re not sure many have a relationship with cycling that runs quite as deeply as Il Magistrale.

Il Magistrale Cycling Coffee (to give you their full name) was the brainchild of Bas Van Den Heuvel, a Dutch cycling fan who got hooked on perfect espresso when working in Milan as the sales manager for tyre giant Pirelli. Although Bas doesn’t take his coffee in the typical Italian style (short, black, dark roast, sweetened with a heaped teaspoon of white sugar and normally downed in one gulp), he said he did get his love for coffee culture during his time working in Italy.

Once the coffee bug bit, it bit hard and Bas was soon experimenting with roasting his own beans. Initially just roasting for himself and a small group of friends, he started to grow his expertise and develop his tasting palate. He was buying in beans from a variety of producers but struggled to find beans of consistently high quality. In order to further develop his skills, he travelled to Amsterdam and spent a week studying the art of roasting with a master roaster and then boosted his knowledge further with supplementary study every weekend for six months.

Realising the obvious link between decent coffee and cycling, Bas initially considered setting up his own coffee shop, but decided that using his coffee bean roasting and blending expertise was a better use of his skills. Bas’ background in cycling is as an XC MTB racer, but as with most cycling fans his understanding and appreciation of the sport went deeper than just his own preferred discipline. In pro-road cycling particularly, nicknames are super common – think of “Der Panzerwagen” for time-trialling supremo Tony Martin or ”The Gorilla” for sprint-monster André Greipel, so it was pretty obvious when Bas started roasting coffee beans on a wider scale that he would name his different blends and roasts after his cycling heroes.

While working at a bike fair, Bas got chatting with Dutch cycling superstar and über coffee fan, Laurens Ten Dam. LtD, as he’s known, had recently returned from a stint living on the west coast of the USA and while there, he had got hooked on one particular blend of coffee sold by a California-based roaster. As LtD couldn’t get hold of those beans once back in Holland, Bas decided to try and produce an homage to LtD’s favourite roast. The roast was a mix of three bean varieties, all organic, with each other roasted separately to the optimum level and then blended to get the desired final flavour. With LtD’s stamp of approval on it, Bas’ beans got a big boost in sales and this really helped push Il Magistrale’s development

With Il Magistrale not having a coffee shop of their own, Bas started to think about how he could take his coffee to the riders, rather than the other way around. The purchase of a classic Mercedes van, formerly used by the local fire service, gave him the perfect tool for the job and after a restoration, fit-out and re-spray the Il Magistrale Caffeine Race Service was up and running. Now a frequent sight at races and bike events all over Europe, Bas and his team were able to meet, socialise and help caffeinate riders of all disciplines.

With Bas’ expertise and love of riding off-road from his MTB days, it’s not at all surprising that he’s now hooked on gravel riding. Not content with just riding though, he’s also set up a gravel race team and has attracted some big names with the lure of perfectly poured coffee including Lars Boom, the former CX world champion. Despite having riders of such high calibre on the team, Bas was keen to emphasise the team was all about fun and having a good time rather than podium placings…

The past twelve months, as for most businesses, have been one of change and adaptation. Bas has seen a big shift to on-line sales with his web shop supplying the daily fix of caffeine that we were missing by not being able to go to a bricks-and-mortar shop. He hasn’t let a global pandemic stand in the way of progress though, and is imminently going to open a pop-up coffee shop in a refurbished 1920s school close in his home town. He’s also become the official coffee provider for EatSleepRide in Girona and for road racing fans, is the official coffee supplier to Team Jumbo Visma! Just to show it’s not just about the coffee (even though we know it is really…) the team from Il Magistrale will be running regular road and gravel rides in Girona, Amsterdam and Oudenaarde. Sounds like the future is bright!

You can find out more details of Bas’ future plans, do free on-line coffee training and stock up on beans/pods/accessories at the Il Magistrale website.