If there was only one word that could be used to describe Jean-Philippe, that word would be ‘passion’. Passion for people, travel, culture, mountains, cycling, and the great outdoors.
While cycling has been at the forefront of his mind for the past three decades, it is not the only thing to define him. Since a young age, Jean-Philippe was forever dreaming of far-flung expeditions, world adventures, and active discovery. He spent hours poring over maps – already mapping out the expeditions he would lead as an adult.
As a teenager, Jean-Philippe ran marathons and ultra-marathons – already breathing in the beauty of the outdoors as he pushed physical boundaries. Later, he discovered a deep love for mountaineering and joined the elite mountain commando team of the French Special Forces. His time as a highly trained commando sergeant in rescue operations enhanced his intimate knowledge of the mountains.
Working as a mountain guide gave him skills his clients rely on today, the knowledge and confidence to provide safe passage through some of Europe’s most exhilarating and challenging mountain roads.
Driven by his desire for adventure, his quest to discover new lands and culture, and his deep-bound interest in meeting diverse people; Jean-Philippe left his native homeland of the Pyrenees to travel the world.
He started in the USA, where the brooding allure of climbing Mt. Rainer enticed him to settle in Seattle. After six years working as a program manager at the Microsoft Redmond Headquarters, Jean-Philippe left the city behind to travel through the dramatic vistas of the Himalayas and to discover the depths of South East Asia’s jungles – living out his childhood dream.
After a number of solo adventures through the mountains and the jungles, Jean-Philippe found his tribe in 1992. During a two-year period exploring some of Asia’s most remote mountains and jungles, he was compelled to stay in the thick tropical jungle of Siberut where he met the Mentawai indigenous people. He was blessed to be welcomed and to share the life of this hunter-gatherer tribe, witnessing not only the daily habits but also the apprenticeship of one of the most revered Mentawai shamans and leaders today.
After his first stint with the Mentawai people, Jean-Philippe moved to Japan for four years. During this time he busied himself teaching French and English, racing XC ski marathons and ultras, and winning the prologue national championship for road cycling. After he left Sapporo, he went on to lead his largest scale expedition to date – the Central American Sea Kayak Expedition 2000.
Over the years Jean-Philippe has led numerous mountain, jungle, ocean and cultural expeditions. His longest started in 1998 as he undertook a three-and-a-half-year sea kayaking adventure covering 3000 miles through seven countries following the flow of the Atlantic and Pacific Coastlines that cut through Central America.
From storms at sea to armed bandit encounters, shark attacks and bouts of malaria – nothing could stop his determination to conquer an adventure that no-one else had done before (or has repeated since). This intrepid journey caught the world’s attention and was featured in numerous media outlets across North America and beyond. Jean-Philippe’s account of his epic expedition of 3000 miles across seven countries, all the way from Baja California to Panama, is now available in his 2019 published memoir titled ‘Dancing With Death’. The amazing account of Jean-Philippe’s journey is available on Amazon and Kindle.
After returning to Seattle, Jean-Philippe’s amazing encounters with indigenous people along the way inspired him to found the Native Planet Non-Profit Organization; an NGO dedicated to protecting the welfare of some of the world’s most fascinating tribes. He and his wife Yumi also founded the Native Planet Outdoor Club – a cycling club in Seattle through which they organized cycling cyclosportives and Granfondo fundraising events. During the same period, Jean-Philippe participated in track cycling races, while guiding and coaching cyclists in the USA.
Jean-Philippe also worked as a professional travel and culture photographer, his images of indigenous communities have been published by National Geographic, the United Nations, and other major scale publications around the globe.
From 2002 to 2008, Jean-Philippe returned frequently to the Mentawai people, working on malaria prevention and cultural preservation projects while documenting their culture and lifestyle; first by capturing photographs and texts for the Native Planet website and to be published in various publications and then in 2006, by acting as guide, interpreter and logistics director for a film-crew, and co-staring alongside famed French actor Patrick Timsit and Documentary Producer Frederic Lopez. The result was an award-winning documentary on the Mentawai people which received critical acclaim and record-breaking viewing numbers. Later in 2008, he worked as interpreter, personal guide, and expedition logistic coordinator for world-famous multiple award-winner photographer Sebastio Salgado.
Unique Cycling Tours
While leading the Seattle based cycling club, in 2007, Jean-Philippe organized and led his first Pyrenees crossing tour through a cycling company he had named Best of the Pyrenees. It quickly became clear that Jean-Philippe wanted to curate something different from other tour operators.
He couldn’t get onboard with the idea that something as spectacular and thrilling as cycling the Pyrenees and the Alps could become well-worn templates for huge commercial conglomerates. He wanted to share one of a kind adventures with cyclists who yearned to see more. He took all that energy and passion for cycling, adventuring, history, culture and travel and poured it all into designing the most unique and incredible cycling tours of Europe.
In 2009, Jean-Philippe moved back to his native French Pyrenees and extended his tour repertoire to include Corsica, the Alps (where he had lived and trained as a mountain guide), and other awe-inspiring destinations. He rebranded the company as VeloTopo in homage to the cycling destinations he covered and treasured – from the Pyrenees to the Alps, the island of Corsica, Provence, Dordogne, Asturias-Cantabria, the Dolomites and the five epic countries of France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and Andorra.
Quest for Excellence
Jean-Philippe invites cyclists to go beyond the ordinary; offering cycling tours to the world’s best cycling destinations. Each tour is specifically hand-made to suit a cyclists passion – taking riders off the beaten track and onto rare rural roads and mountain climbs that match or even exceed the tantalizing Tour de France climbs, and the epic routes of Giro and Vuelta.
With a lifetime of experience leading expeditions to some of the world’s toughest places, Jean-Philippe is well-versed in guiding cyclists through glorious yet challenging settings in safety, class and style. He also now appreciates the finer details that can come at the end of a heavy cycling day – a cloud like hotel bed, a glass of good local wine, and an epicurean dining experience.
Those who travel with Jean-Philippe can not only experience the wonders of a specially made cycling itinerary but will also be blown away by the majesty of the chosen mountain passes, the carefully chosen climbs and challenges, and the authentic and intimate local encounters in hand-selected hotels and restaurants along the way.
Discover Jean-Philippe’s passion with a joie de vivre cycling tour that cuts straight to the heart of the worlds best cycling experiences. Contact VeloTopo today to start designing your once in a lifetime adventure.