Those of us who followed world cycling back in the 90s would be instantly familiar with the Colnago/Mapei partnership, and the blazing trail of successes enjoyed by the collaboration. We caught up with one person in particular who is familiar with that colourful era of world-class cycling. Indeed, Fabio became inspired by this partnership and the beautiful bikes it produced, and this is his unique story…
Hopefully nobody from Fabio’s family is reading this. Because if they are, then they’re about to discover he owns more bikes than he’s possibly encouraged them to believe… A lot more.
In fact, Fabio has nine Colnago ‘Mapei’s in total, but he’s fairly confident he can get away with it given several of them look so similar...
So how does it come to be that a non-professional rider can have more bikes than there are days in the week?
After chatting with Fabio, the answer makes perfect and complete sense…
Fabio’s first Colnago was a brand new Carbonissimo time trial that he’s had for some ten years and that has seen him compete in Ironman races around the world. Clocking up endurance events was put on hold, however, two years ago when Fabio developed a knee injury. It was about this time he acquired from a bike aficionado friend a Colnago Mapei C40 Oscar Freire Limited Edition. Perhaps feeling like he’d already started a bit of an ongoing theme, Fabio took the C40 to his bike mechanic, Luke Medhurst, only to be told that there were plenty of other Colnago Mapei bikes out there…
The fire was lit.
But before we can understand the magic of a collection like Fabio’s, we have to step back and understand just what made Colnago and Mapei so special.
Colnago and Mapei – a story of one of cycling’s great collaborations
A talented cyclist and spirited entrepreneur, Ernesto Colnago began a small bike mechanical business when an injury forced him to take time off the bike. The business proved so popular that young Ernesto was forced to open up a bigger space just a few doors down from his previous one in Cambiago, Italy. A friendship with Italian cyclist Fiorenzo Magni exposed Ernesto to Faliero Masi, one of the most revered frame builders on the pro circuit. Ernesto learnt much from Masi, and his involvement in champion racing was galvanised when he assumed a position as mechanic to the Italian national cycling team. This eventually led to Ernesto designing and making a bike for racing legend Eddy Merckx, before establishing associations with a string of who’s-who names in bike racing at the time. Through Ernesto, Colnago the brand became synonymous with technical innovation (as demonstrated with the historic Colnago/Ferrari collaboration), vision (as demonstrated when Ernesto visited Japan on invitation by Yoshizo Shimano) and business acumen.
But it was in the 1990s that the Colnago/Mapei partnership was formed. Giorgio Squinzi, the industrial chemist and head of Mapei (a company producing adhesives, sealants and chemical products for building), was behind a fledgling team that capitalised on its competitor Clas’s decision to scale down their involvement in cycling. The Spanish Clas team was at the time sponsored by Colnago, and so Squinzi wasted no time acquiring their riders – and their sponsor – to begin one of cycling’s most successful collaborations of all time.
Who rode during the Colnago/Mapei heyday?
In short – some of cycling’s greatest names, ever. Riders like Cadel Evans, Mario Cipollini, Oscar Freire, Michele Bartoli, Paolo Bettini, Franco Ballerini, Gianluca Bortolami, Andrea Tafi, Abraham Olano, Johan Museeuw and Tony Rominger. During the Colnago/Mapei heyday three riders won Paris-Roubaix five times including the famously iconic 1996 sweep of the podium, led by Belgium’s Museeuw.
Fabio’s Colnago/Mapei collection
Nestled in their very own garage area are nine beautifully and laboriously restored Colnago Mapeis.
They are the product of a combined passion and affinity for bikes.
Fabio has laboured for countless hours on the internet in world-wide search for not only frames, but the original parts and accessories that go with them. He’s tackled an acute shortage of supply, language barriers and many other complications to bring each bike into the fold. He’s worked with suppliers such as his mechanic Luke, and Queensland’s Paint My Bike, to fastidiously and loyally return each bike to its rightful beauty. The result is nothing short of ultra-impressive for anyone who knows and appreciates bikes.
So what’s in the collection?
- Colnago/ Mapei Master (steel frame)
- Colnago/ Mapei Dream (aluminium frame)
- Colnago/Mapei CT1 Titanium
- Colnago/ Mapei C40 (named after Colnago’s 40th anniversary)
- Colnago/ Mapei C40 Limited Edition Oscar Freire and considered by many to be cycling’s ‘Holy Grail’
- Colnago/ Mapei Carbonissimo
- Colnago/Mapei Khrono Crono Time Trial
- Colnago/ Mapei EPS replica
- Colnago/ Mapei C59 replica
The C40 Limited Edition and the Khrono Crono bikes bare Colnago/Shimano branding on the frame, an indication that they were the original bikes used by the pro cycling team (Shimano logo branding does not feature on standard bikes for retail).
Several of the bikes feature the iconic frame ‘crimping’ – said to give the frame additional stiffness. Whether or not that is indeed the case, they are most certainly quintessentially Colnago/Mapei.
Nine Bikes … That must make for a lot of riding?
Incredibly, Fabio is yet to ride any of his collection with exception to the Carbonissimo. He hasn’t so much as even taken one of the other bikes down his drive away. The knee injury has a big part to play here, but also there’s a sense that Fabio’s not motivated by kilometres in the saddle.
In Fabio’s words – he likes old things. He’s particularly enamoured by what he regards as Italy’s ultimate design trio: • Colnago bikes • The legendary E61 coffee machine • The superb 1969 series 1 1750 Alfa Romeo
And not surprisingly, they can all be found under Fabio’s roof, sitting in mint condition; not necessarily getting used much at all, but just omitting a lovingly restored, lovingly maintained presence.
Lucky for household storage however, that Fabio doesn’t have nine of everything, just the Colnago/Mapeis!