Hear from Mummu Cycling founder and managing director, Marcel Berger on all things Mummu; from the unique company name, to its beginnings, his journey into the cycling world and big aspirations for the future...
What is ‘Mummu’, the story behind the name and how it came about?
At Mummu, our number one core value is ‘knowledge is power’. We truly believe that the more you know, the more powerful you can be.
That’s the reason we surround ourselves with ‘the best of the best’. Being the likes of the UCI, the ASO, Stuart O’Grady, Gossy etc. We align ourselves with professionals because we believe that having experience around us allows us to deliver what we do best.
Mummu is a Babylonian god of technical skill, knowledge and power. So when we discovered Mummu, it resonated with what we believe in. So, we combined the two together and it resulted in our company name.
I do also like the fact that initially no one can spell it or pronounce it which means everyone remembers it!
(Note: Pronounced ‘Moo-Moo’).
Tell us about your career background and how you initially stepped into the cycling world?
I didn’t choose to get into cycling. I entered into the cycling world in 2009 at a meeting with then Commercial Manager of the UCI, Nicole Gruber. Nicole gave Mummu the opportunity to work with the UCI on creating experiences for cycling fans, teams and federations at world championships.
This eventually grew into Mummu being awarded the exclusive travel services contract for the UCI globally for four years. During this time, Phil Anderson approached us to help run his cycling tour company, which we did from 2009 through to 2013, hosting over 1,000 guests during this period.
So, in a way cycling almost fell in our laps and from that we’ve now worked in every capacity of the sport. Mummu are athlete managers, commercial managers, event managers, have worked with and represented national federations, grand tours, professional teams and obviously as well, the fans.
This gives us an advantage in being able to do what we do now, which is give fans the greatest experience possible at a cycling event, because we know every element of that event, we know the best place to stand, how the race works, how to get into certain areas, what’s important and how to manage your time and we now try to combine that into an ideal experience for cycling fans.
How did your past experiences and years in the sporting industry help in achieving this?
For me, personally I started working in hospitality and events from the age of 12. I was an assistant stage manager from the age of 14, I set up my first cafe when I was 17 and a cocktail bar when I was 19. I worked in some of the best cocktail bars throughout London during my late teens-early twenties and then some of the best restaurants in Australia following. I then went on to manage several night clubs and beyond. I spent a lot of time in the world of ‘serving people’, which is probably the best way to describe it.
When I returned from overseas, I thought I should probably go to university and ended up studying Entrepreneurship, which in 2004 was very new. That led me to setting up a corporate health company for 7 years where we would help large corporate organisations with their entire corporate health program for around 5-6000 employees. After existing that business I spent time consulting to sports organisations in commercial roles - from football clubs to national federations and predominantly based around finding them more money.
One day, I got tapped on the shoulder and was asked to work for a sports travel company and thought sure, why not - I don’t know a lot about travel, but I’ve travelled a bit and like sport. I very quickly found out that sports travel is not easy and the travel industry in particular is a very difficult business to be in, due to low margins and increasing technology. But what we found in working there and working across all the biggest sports in the world; from the NBA, to the NFL, Olympics, cricket world cup, through to the rugby world cup, was that fans of sport want more than just a ticket, they want to experience more than just a seat in a stadium and that really encouraged and led me into what we do now, which is giving people more than just a cycling tour.
Anyone can go and stand on the side of the road at the 140km mark of a 170km stage, but not everyone can be chaperoned by someone who won that stage ten years prior and then have team directors stopping to say hello mid race. Then having the connection to be able to have the biggest cyclists in the world step off their team buses ahead of the race to say hi and let us know what they have planned for the day. So, that whole experience really drove me to where I am now.
The Stuart O’Grady factor - How did this relationship come about and how has Stuart’s partnership with the company contributed to the Mummu Cycling difference?
I serendipitously met Stuey at a luncheon in 2016. I had hosted a table at a Matty Hayman/Mitchelton-Scott luncheon just after he’d won Paris-Roubaix. Stuey was a guest on stage and I was really impressed with how he spoke and of course having been the first winner of Paris-Roubaix, thought it be the perfect opportunity to join forces and lead our Spring Classics tour.
I approached Stuey and asked him if he’d be keen on hosting our Classics tour and he agreed. We ended up running a successful Classics tour, followed by the Giro, onto the Tour de France and from there it’s now grown into a successful partnership and I thoroughly enjoy working with such a champion of the sport to create the number one cycling tour company. We both also have a passion for supporting retired cyclists to continue in the sport that they love in a role that’s not a director or the media. And that’s just as important to what we do, as running cycling tours.
Elaborate on the Mummu Cycling difference and your key differential attributes to other tour operators?
When travelling with Mummu Cycling, we put everything into getting our guests closer to the race and closer to the world of pro cycling than any other tour operator. We give people an insight into what it’s like to be a professional cyclist without having to do the hard work (sic). We do it with a smile and give people that level of knowledge that you wouldn’t normally get if you were just standing on the other side of the fence.
This is combined with experienced staff, vast networks, great hotels, awesome riding, food and wine to create a memorable experience like no other.
Your pro connection is a huge advantage. How/why have you established these connections over the years, with the likes of (in addition to Stuart) Matt Goss, Baden Cooke and Nick Gates coming on board as tour hosts?
It’s two-fold. Firstly, our ambassadors can offer an experience that simply can’t be offered elsewhere. We always find pro’s that are relevant for the tour they are leading; meaning we’ll have Stuey come on tour for Roubaix and the Tour de France, Matt Goss for Milan San Remo & the Giro and Baden for the Tour, being a Green jersey winner. It always helps to have a pro on board that understands the specific race back to front and can give our guests a unique insight.
A number of these pro’s, particularly in their first few years out of racing are also often looking for other avenues to stay involved in the sport. Quite frankly, we give them that platform and opportunity to engage with their fans in a fun and exciting way where they can experience the race from a different, refreshing angle on the ‘fan’ side of the fence, which they seem to love and enjoy.
Since your establishment in 2010, you’re only continuing to grow and develop each season. What are your biggest aspirations for the future of Mummu Cycling?
Mummu Cycling doesn’t want to be the biggest cycling tour operator, but we want to be the best. So right now, we want to continue to offer experiences at the level we currently do, to as many people as we can at all major cycling events around the world. At the same time, we’re also excited about introducing other types of cycling experiences. We are working with our ambassadors on a number of weekend experiences in their home towns where they can actually show you what riding around their local and old training grounds is like. We then have our domestic Australian Experience tours, including the 'Bike for Bushfire' series and L’Étape Australia by Tour de France and a few other secrets up our sleeves. So that’s what we’re excited about right now - the growth.
I suppose all we can say is that some people may not know about Mummu Cycling now, but I can definitely say they will in the next two years!