If you were to ask me for a single word that personifies someone, then this would be the one I’d assign to Mr Russ Carty. It’s the word I’ve heard Russ proclaim a thousand times or more, sometimes when in the charming company of yet another Nordic goddess or sometimes while enjoying some rather close-to-the-mark male banter, but it’s always accompanied by a naughty twinkle in his eye and a deep chuckle.
Russ is one of my oldest friends in Monaco, a relationship that goes back more than twenty years, and that’s a long time by Monaco standards. We’ve both been there, got the t-shirt (or more like, in Russ’ case, the hoodie) and done it. Despite it feeling like yesterday, we’ve long since sailed on from the easy, single, carefree life of the Columbus bar and mid-week Rascasse nights to weddings, responsible jobs, children and everything else in-between.
When I first encountered Russ, it was, indeed, in the Hotel Columbus bar, back in the days when David Coulthard still owned half of it and could often be found propping it up. Ah yes, those good ole’ days when one could rock up to any one of the three decent bars in Monaco on any given day in the week, with no fixed rendezvous and be certain to meet at least a handful of great friends who were already there hanging out. It was easy, a far more simple life than the 2020s and my God it was fun. I’d liken it to living in a real-life series of Friends. Just one big group of mates hanging out together in a Principality that, although it appeared stuck in a 70s time warp, actually offered heaps of frivolity if you knew where and how to make it. We were in the MC social mixing bowl together, each with our own version of how we got there, each contributing to the smorgasbord of diverse and exotic cultures at every party and it didn’t matter if you were 20 or 60, everyone was welcome. At that time, no one gave a monkey’s how many diamonds you’d got (or rather, hadn’t) or whether you had a frowny forehead or if you sported a Yacht Club badge on your car. We just accepted each other as we were; bonding over copious amounts of cheap bottles of Rosè a la Rose, hanging out at Mala Beach on Hungover Saturday and generally having a right old laugh.
Like all of us, Russ presented himself differently back then. His standard attire was old jeans, some sort of sport logoed t-shirt, a hoodie, trainers and his trademark, a baseball cap. Very cool if you’re into mountain bikes, skateboards and snow-boarding but completely un-Monaco. It didn’t faze him one bit, he was a British lad, after all, with a fondness for battered sausages and a decent pint.
At the time we first met, Russ worked for Kona Bikes, both as Marketing Director and as chief of their successful mountain bike team. Like so many of us living here, the journey of his life from the wet, north-eastern town of Wrexham in Wales to the slippery, marble pavements of Monaco was a varied and interesting one.
Before his adoptive parents found him, Russ’ first months of life were spent being cared for at a convent in Wales. Ten years of living in the suburbs of Manchester gave young Russ a life-long foundation of good, core values and solid, northern grounding. After his parents’ divorce, Mum eventually met his second Dad and the family moved to Oxford and then Guildford, Surrey. Through his first Dad’s passion for road bikes, this is when Russ took up cycling. This was rather short-lived, however, after his father suffered a nasty road accident and insisted thereafter that Russ switch to mountain biking instead. Henceforth began Russ’ passion for all things linked with mountain biking – cross country, downhill, enduro and free riding.
At school, his love for technology was matched by his strong dislike of English Lit. He was far too occupied training for his next mountain bike race around the UK to worry about exams. Much to his parents’ dismay, he left school with a-less-than-impressive “U” for Ungraded and an F for French. He was offered a job for £50 a week to mind and sweep the floor of a local bike shop, and, unlike many of the Gen Z youth of today, he diligently worked his way up the ladder, eventually becoming the manager of a chain of regional bike stores across England.
Impressed by his dedication, hard-work, passion and easy-going personality, Kona Bikes UK offered Russ his first role in the company as a Marketing Assistant. Using his initiative and driven by his love of racing, he asked his boss if he could help out with the Kona Bike racing team. What started as a kid’s tricycle of a project soon had the stabilisers off and was free-wheeling fast, swiftly gathering pace and growing into something much bigger. Ford UK was looking to sponsor a bike team and Russ was sent to do a pitch. Ever the techie, he compiled a kick-ass presentation and won the sponsorship for Kona. As the team grew both in presence and status, so did the sponsorship funds. Ford UK progressed on to include Ford Europe and then Ford USA. Kona Bike’s now had a global team with Russ spearheading it as Team Manager.
One of the Kona riders was based close to Monaco and Kona Europe had an office there. So Russ packed his bag and began living his best life; traveling around the globe, making new friends and rapidly earning himself the tongue-in-cheek title of “Russell the Love Muscle” amongst his mates! Being young, free and single in Monaco was a darn good life for this charming, friendly Surrey lad. He did briefly reflect on whether he should’ve made a bit more effort in French lessons at school, and he did miss the odd Gregg’s sausage roll and a country pub but none of that could dampen his enthusiasm for his glamorous new life.
The Kona chapter lasted nearly 15 years, and aside from helping build the brand and team up to heady heights, the boy also did good as he involved Kona and the team in raising money to support charities such as the WWF in Tanzania and Kona Bike Town, supplying bikes for nurses to get the anti-viral AIDS drugs out in hard-to-reach areas in South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania and Botswana.
Russ’ mum was an estate agent, and wherever they moved his parents sought out property in which to invest. At the age of 18 they gave Russ and his sisters a choice to either have a lump sum of cash or invest in a property of their own. Sisters chose the cash, Russ chose his first property. Fast forward to the present day and Russ now runs a considerable portfolio of properties across the UK under the name GU1 Property.
Tempting as it may have been, this Love Muscle wasn’t destined to be a bachelor boy forever. In the summer of 2011 he met his future wife and now mum to their four children, Vibeke, at one of the infamous Sea Lounge parties. Vivi, as she’s known, is the Director of She Can, He Can, the Monaco-based organisation whose principal aim is to inspire and support girls to take leadership roles and challenge gender stereotypes. Despite the incredibly fortuitous opportunities that both Vivi’s family and their own projects offer, Russ’ childhood values still run deep and they’re both committed to raising their kids as they were, with their feet firmly on the ground, kindness in their hearts and a strong sense of decency, respect and honesty.
When he’s not obsessing over the latest geeky technology gadget, Russ’ downtime is happily spent clad in lycra, joining his well-known Monaco sporting mates on a scenic bike ride. Well, to be fair, when your neighbour and friend is none other than seven-time Grand Tour winner Chris Froome, you’re safe in the knowledge that it’s going to be a great boys’ day out. And that’s pretty “wow” in itself!
PHOTOS: Russell Carty, centre, with Chris Froome