i have been asked many times why i have a particular penchant for colnago bicycles; the answer is always the same. i have no idea. i think it fortunate that i chose to ally myself to certainly one of the finest marques in cycling history, and i'd love to be able to say that it was their impressive palmares that led me to my decision. that, however, would be a distortion of the truth; i simply liked the idea of owning a colnago and rather generously bought myself one for my fortieth birthday.
there are numerous others that i could have chosen to fill my bicycle shed with, and i don't mind admitting that there were occasions when i could have switched lanes just as easily as making that original choice. in fact, having cycled from here to dublin (using a ferry for the wet bits) to watch the start of the 1998 tour de france, getting caught up in the esteemed victory of marco pantani oft times gave me cause to seriously consider a bianchi. to watch the little italian in later editions of the tour calmly cycle past those who thought they had the mountain stage won, was an experience of sheer joy. ok, since then, we've all discovered that marco may have had a little medicinal help, but it doesn't detract from the spectacle of watching him climb.
on a bianchi.
edoardo bianchi started building bicycles in 1885 at number 7 in milan's via nirone, and it is of little surprise that this historically excellent book, now available in english text, pays great heed to the growth of this longest lived bicycle marque. there were others who came before, but who amongst us remembers gritzner, adler, columbia, singer and rudge? ok the last two may be a tad more familar, but they're no longer making bicycles. bianchi, on the other hand, are still available to this day, though like many of their compatriots, not much of their productive output comes from italy. and they don't all leave the shop painted in that famous celeste blue.
i and others have long contended that the italians seem blissfully unaware of what it is they have. in much the same way that it seems sacreligious to own a ferrari in any colour other than red, many of us would portend that every banchi ought to be in celeste decor.
partitioned into thematic sections, the history of bianchi is described through the method of direct timeline, before cutting to the chase: bicycle racing. through the teams who adopted the marque as their chariots of fire, the champions who rode edoardo's creation, before presenting us with the bicycle for everyone; the bianchis for the rest of us. i'll admit that it came as something of a blow to re-discover that bianchi became a part of the cycleurope conglomerate. this is something i think i already knew, but with no disrespect to the brand's current owners, it's a shame to see a bicycle once recognised for its individuality to rest in the hands of ubiquity.
daniele marchesini's narrative is impressive, not only for the research that has obviously been undertaken, but for the plethora of superb photography that he has unearthed to document the early days of bianchi bicycles. the rather superb price currently being offered by prendas is very hard to pass up, but there are two specifics within these pages that are more than worth the price of admission alone.
in the absence of a foreword by an italian heavyweight from the racing past, we are provided with something even better; an interview with felice gimondi. it seems that many of italy's more graceful riders sat astride bianchi bicycles and gimondi is surely one of the more notable. gimondi's interview is bereft of any posing or arrogance; quite the contrary. his enthusiasm for the celeste bicycles is apparent throughout, and it is no real surprise that he took up a position with the company on his retiral from racing. does he still cycle? "yes i still pedal. on sundays and, if possible, with a mountain bike along off-road trails. it's more relaxing and less dangerous. i don't exaggerate with the kilometres, and i control the workout..."
the second reason for a compulsory purchase order is bianchi's most famous son: fausto coppi. though the great italian rider did not ride bianchis his entire career, it is aboard the celeste blue that he is perhaps best remembered. there are a number of photographs of coppi that must rank amongst the most inspirational i have ever seen. two distinct photos showing coppi and bartali racing each other which, without question, show how much a part of the bicycle coppi appeared to be. it has often been stated that few could compare to fausto when racing his bianchi; looking at his profile compared to that of bartali truly has to be seen to be believed. oh that we could all look that good on a bicycle.
at just shy of twenty quid, it would be a foolish cycle fan that passed this by, even if you only look at the pictures.
posted friday 9 december 2011..........................................................................................................................................................................................................