Every time we have a camp I try to add something exciting to break things up and expose our clients to something that they do not see every day at home and of course it has to have something to do with the cycling industry. I think that is part of our culture, motivation and life style and it also helps us appreciate our bikes a little more and helps us understand the sport we love so much – passion like they say in Italy. It is like getting a pit or back stage pass for us cyclist to watch a stage of the Giro or visit at a bike factory.
This year in Italy we hit the Bianchi factory which is right near Bergamo . I have wanted to go there for years now , but it has never fit our schedule in the past .
Today was a perfect day , it was pouring rain and riding was not that appealing first thing in the morning.Salvi Bikestore, our connection to Bianchi. Franco Salvi got us in and Matteo at our Cascina Belvedi hotel hooked us up with his van , short drive and not too bad to find. Driving in Italy could some times be a challenge as you could imagine. Bianchi is an old bike company and every body knows the history .
Fausto Coppi put the brand on the map and after that many legends and teams has ridden Bianchi bikes. You can almost feel the passion for bikes when you pull up into the factory parking lot. Our guide is Frederica , nice Italian charm and her English is good – always a challenge in Italy as well . There are a lot of frames getting ready for either customers or the 3 pro teams that Bianchi is sponsoring . I think in the past few years Bianchi has once again climbed back up to the top of racing bikes and it is a winning bike in many aspects . We actually witnessed Thomas De Genth win on Stelvio a couple of days later which was a historic moment for Bianchi I am sure .
Bianchi has been around for a long time and there is a lot of history in this place . Coppi, Pantani, Absalon, Gimondi just to mention a few . Their bikes and pictures are displayed every where . Here in the US the brand was known back in the day , but not so much now anymore. Most guys think of steel bikes from 20-30 years ago and do not really know about the latest development and Oltre. Bianchi sponsors 3 pro teams , but they also have former pros working for them . I think that is a huge asset to a bike company , the former pros know what to look for in a bike and how it should ride . More important they know how to PR the brand. They have been around that part all their lives and we know them from racing , some of them were our idols when we were growing up.
We are just standing around and almost finished with our tour and in walks Giuseppe Guerini and Mirco Gualdi . Very friendly and out going guys , we chat and hump their legs for a bit , get some photos and autographs , by now Frederica pretty much have had enough of us , but in walks Bob Ippolito , the American CEO, there is an American running Bianchi in Italy. He knows we are from the US and immediately sparks are flying , he wants to know what we think about the bike and how he can market Bianchi better in the US . Next thing you know we are all sitting around a conference table with Bob in a heated discussion about bikes, racing and how to get the brand back into the US like it once was. Pretty funny stuff , we are just a bunch of guys riding around on our bikes , none of us rides Bianchi and now we are having a meeting with the CEO at Bianchi.
Joking aside , this is a very valuable connection to my future plans and one of them being my camps . Next camp we will have a Bianchi Oltre waiting for us and no need to bring your own bike. One suit case with clothing, pedals,shoes and helmet- a dream come through for traveling . Bianchi Oltre bikes all set up and ready to go. A great opportunity to test out a bike for a week and at the end of the week get a killer deal on one of these machines.
Bob’s next question was ; how is your schedule this afternoon? Well it was still raining , so I guess pretty open -;) Ok then , let’s join the Bianchi Team for lunch . Not bad , food was great and all the employees where there from the top guy, pros to the packaging guy.
Bob was hired to turn the company around and make Bianchi a top brand once again , from the looks of things -things are going very well here and Bob is a huge success in Italy. We spent 5 hours at the factory and made some very valuable connections and I hope we can promote them in the future on a great level as a thank you for their hospitality . I been to other bike companies , I can tell you we did not get the same warm feeling or connection from them – and no lunch with the CEO!!
Made it back , stopped at Salvi and then even got a great 2.5 hour ride in around Valle Imanga with some climbing of course.
Thanks for reading and I hope you can join us on one of these bike adventures one day .