Specialized E5 – Acqua e Sapone

Acqua e Sapone was a professional cycling team that looked like it had been beamed right out of a Marvel Comic.

The team was built around the superstar Italian sprinter Mario “Lion King”  Cipollini and raced on bikes from an up-and coming US brand named Specialized.

“Acqua e Sapone” translates to “Liquid Soap” and in addition to having one of the weirdest team names ever, the squad also had the funkiest team outfit in living memory – forever immortalised by Cipollini’s Milan San-Remo win.

Cipollini’s other nicknames were “Super Mario” and “Il Bello” (The Beautiful One) but his hundreds of victories certainly proved he wasn’t just a pretty face. In addition to Milan–San Remo he also won Gent-Wevelgem, the World Road race Championships, and 42 stages in the Giro d’Italia.

Besides wearing eye assaulting Zebra stripe outfits, Acqua e Sapone didn’t function like most other pro road race squads either.  When it came to rider line-up and race tactics, in the early 2000s a typical team was composed of one or two Grand Tour riders or Classics specialists, some climbers, one or two strong sprinters, and a supporting crew of domestiques.

But with the Acqua e Sapone gang, if your name wasn’t Cipollini then the only game in town was to serve Il Bello – on mostly flat or slightly bumpy courses as Mario didn’t like to climb mountains. And the strategy paid dividends with Cipollini taking both Milan-San Remo and the World Championships in 2002.

The team raced aboard Specialized S-Works E5 framesets constructed from aluminium “Aerotec” tubing produced by Columbus in Italy. But what few people know is that the frames were welded and finished by Merida in Taiwan, following on from the company’s investment in Specialized in 2001.

And to this day, all of Specialized’s high-end race bikes are still produced in Asia as part of the partnership between the two firms.

So Cipollini’s big wins on his Specialized E5 also represented the increasingly global nature of the cycling industry.

Here was “Super Mario” racing on an American bicycle brand whose frames were made from Italian tubing, but with production outsourced to Taiwan – and kitted out with Japanese Shimano components and Mavic French made wheels.

With their black and white stripe paint jobs Acqua e Sapone team bikes were the coolest in the pro peloton – complete with Cipollini’s signature on the top tube just to remind everyone who was boss.

That’s why we just had to get one for our Flandrien Hotel collection. 

Now all we need is a Zebra-stripe skinsuit to match.

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GIOS Torino 1987 – Suntour Superbe Pro

GIOS Torino - 1987

This gorgeous 1987 GIOS Torino Super Record is a stunning example of Italian craftmanship and Japanese innovation. 

The bike was created at a time when there was a big shift underway in frame materials and components. And it represents the final stages of European handcrafted racing frames before much of the world started to shift production to Asia.

Gios has a proud and illustrious heritage. In 1958 an 18-year-old Alfredo Gios started working in the family business, which had been founded ten years before by his father Tolmino.  Tolmino had been a top professional cyclist of the 1930s and had competed in the Italian National Team at the Berlin Olympic Games in 1936.

At first the company started selling city bikes, and sales grew steadily. As he took on more responsibility in the family business, Alfredo started to see an opportunity in the racing segment and the company invested in new models.

In November 1971 Alfredo met Giorgio Perfetti at the Milan bike show. Perfetti was owner of the chewing gum brand “Brooklyn” that was created by his candy company after World War II when American GIs introduced locals to chewing gum.

The “Brooklyn” name, American flag inspired graphics, and Brooklyn Bridge logo were meant to give the gum an American image. Product sales were booming and Perfetti decided to run a promotional raffle to offer customers the chance of winning one of the new “Easy Rider” models created by GIOS. He ordered 100 bikes.

Alfredo looked for a special colour which fitted perfectly with the “stars & stripes”, design of the Brooklyn logo. After some tests, he created the GIOS blue colour, with a brilliant, electric, eye-catching and surrealist tone.  

In the following years the colour became synonymous with the GIOS brand. Alfredo Gios once remarked: “Like Henry Ford, I will sell you a bicycle in any colour you like. As long as it’s blue.”   GIOS blue is still used on all of the company’s frames to this day.

The promotional partnership with GIOS led to the sponsorship of the Brooklyn Pro Cycling Team that targeted the one-day classics. The team’s line-up featured riders such as Roger De Vlaeminck, who won Paris–Roubaix four times.

The bicycle that we have in our collection is fitted with beautiful Suntour Superbe Pro Componentry. Nobuo Ozaki, the head of product development at Suntour’s parent company Maeda, invented the slant parallelogram rear derailleur in 1964 and obtained worldwide patents on the design.

For the next 20 years, Suntour produced technically superior derailleurs. Suntour’s slant parallelogram broke the image of Japanese components as being cheap copies of European designs.

Suntour’s Superbe Pro competition components were amongst the very best bicycle components of the 1980s. Their simple and elegant styling, outstanding quality in materials and finish, extremely precise design and manufacturing tolerances assured optimum performance and looks for any custom frame.

But its derailleur patents expired in 1984 and in 1985 the company’s Japanese rival Shimano introduced indexed SIS shifting. Sun Tour underestimated the need for a competing product and postponed development of an indexed system until 1986, by which point Shimano had already gained significant market share.

In 1990, Shimano then introduced their STI shifting levers for road bicycles, which completely integrated the brake lever and shifter. This system helped Shimano take the lead in groupset manufacturing. Sun Tour stopped producing components in March of 1995. The name was bought by SR, but the component designs did not survive.

Today the GIOS Torino company is much smaller that it was in its heyday, but still proudly independent. The firm specialises in made to measure steel and aluminium bicycle frames and is led today by Alfredo’s son Luca Tolmino Gios.

It is one of the few iconic Italian bicycle brands to remain in the hands of the founding family. We have more than ten different GIOS models in our Flandrien Hotel collection, covering a quarter of a century of production from 1987-2012.

Taken together this beautiful blue GIOS Torino bicycle with Suntour groupset represent a lesson in industry dynamics. Even leading firms can quickly fall behind if they do not stay ahead of the curve in terms of investment in innovation, production technologies and new materials. 

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Mathew Hayman – Colnago Extreme Power

  is a true “Flandrien” in every sense of the word – and we’ve got one of his bikes! Hayman raced for Rabobank & Sky before joining Australian WorldTour team Orica in 2014. Hayman spent most of his 17-year career working for others and only collected 3 wins: the Commonwealth Games road race, Paris-Bourges and Paris-Roubaix.

I remember watching “The Hell of the North” with my kids on that day in 2016, sitting on the edge of my seat as Hayman got away in the early breakaway. It was a smart move, driven by his experience of 14 previous attempts at the race. Once in the escape, he conserved energy and avoided all the carnage happening behind.

First the group numbered 16 but only Hayman had the staying power when the favorites bridged. He formed a group of 5 with Tom Boonen, Ian Stannard, Sep Vanmarcke & Edvald Boasson Hagen. On what is often the most crucial cobbled section, the Carrefour de L’Abre, Hayman was shouldered by Stannard as the British rider tried to make up ground. The Aussie braked to stay upright and was quickly distanced.

I freaked out and my son Charlie said “It’s just a bike race Dad – don’t give yourself a heart attack!” The television cameras lost Hayman and I thought that his shot at victory was over. I slumped into the sofa with my head between my hands. But then, by the end of the sector, Hayman appeared on the back of the group of 4 and I almost did have a heart attack as I leapt up from the sofa screaming ”You f****ng ripper! Go Matty! Charlie left the room.

As the small group entered the velodrome all bets were on the legendary Boonen, a former World Champion and Tour de France green jersey winner who was going for a record 5th Paris-Roubaix win.  But I knew that sprinting after 260 kilometres is a very different thing to a conventional bunch sprint. It was a finish for the hard men.

As with many Aussies, Hayman had raced on the velodrome since he was a kid and knew his track craft well. He opened the final sprint early, came past Boonen with speed from the banking and had just enough in his legs to stay in front.

The win was Hayman’s third professional win – the man he beat into second, Tom Boonen had over 100 career wins. And I still have to curb my enthusiasm about Hayman’s victory a little bit when Flemish guests come to visit as Tom’s 2nd place remains something akin to a national tragedy

Oh, and what about the bike? It’s a Colnago C-50 Extreme Power that Hayman raced during his time at Rabobank when he was a fresh faced kid dreaming of a win in the classics.

We know Mathew personally, and for all of us at the Flandrien Hotel the bike embodies his Flandrien spirit of grit, determination, perseverance & humility.

 

Pinarello Prince – Team Telekom

Pinarello Prince - 2001

Team Telekom was one of the most influential cycling teams ever. Founded in 1991 by Belgian team manager Walter Godefroot, the team took a few years (and some creative doctors) to really gain momentum.

The young German sprinter Erik Zabel won the first big race in the history of the team, the Paris-Tours in 1994. The next two years saw the international breakthrough of the boys in pink. Godefroot brought in rider Bjarne Riis, who finished third in the 1995 Tour de France and went on to win in 1996.

A young Jan Ullrich was then a support rider and finished in second place. In the 1997 Tour de France Ullrich won the race with support from Riis, who had earlier won the Amstel Gold. The German powerhouse’s popularity hit an all-time high after ‘Der Kaiser’ won the Tour de France in 1997, prompting a huge rise in Germany’s interest in pro-cycling.

Sporting the signature pink colours of their Telecom company sponsor, they were backed up by iconic brands like Pinarello, Campagnolo and even Adidas. Dozens of victories followed in the subsequent years. And the team’s multitude of wins came aboard Pinarello bikes from Italy – first steel models and then the aluminium framed Pinarello Prince which is the bicycle that we have in our Flandrien Hotel collection. 

This model of the Prince from the 2001 season is made of Dedacciai Aluminium tubing and the frame sports carbon rear seat stays and carbon forks. It is the very last top-end model before Pinarello introduced its curving “Onda” forks and seat stays with the Prince SL. The bike was used by German-Swiss athlete Steffen Wesemann, a punchy rider who was a specialist in the one-day Spring Classics and winner of the 2004 Tour of Flanders when the team morphed into T-Mobile.

Of course, it all started to unravel after the 2006 Tour de France doping scandal when most of the team were kicked off the race. Godefroot and his doctors were fired, as were several top riders. Shortly after Deutsche Telekom announced that it would be pulling its sponsorship. The remnants of the team were revived as Team Highroad by the American businessman Bob Stapleton, but the Teutonic fans took it all rather hard.  Pink jerseys rapidly disappeared from the roads of Deutschland.

The German media was even less kind, pulling many of the big races from broadcast TV.  The popularity of cycle sport in the country took a nosedive, a crisis from which it has only recently started to recover.

But there is a new crop of young female and male athletes from Germany who are starting to make their mark. I’m sure it won’t be long before we see a new Kaiser or Kaiserin on the roads of the Tour de France. 

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Chesini Recordman – 1988

Chesini Recordman - 1988

As a kid who was crazy about cycling, the 1984 LA Olympics are imprinted on my brain as an incredible spectacle of bike design & innovation. Indeed, the 1984 Olympics are acknowledged as the event that ushered in the era of “superbikes” and the pursuit of aerodynamics as a game changer in cycle sport.
 
There is some debate about who first experimented with aero bicycle design, but one of the pioneers of the late 1970s was French pro team manager Cyrille Guimard.
 
Guimard worked with French bicycle brand Gitane to develop low profile “funny bikes” with sloping top tubes, short head tubes,

smaller diameter front wheels, and upturned “bullhorn” handlebars.

Similar designs were created by frame builders working with the East German track team and used very successfully in international competitions as early as 1982. By by the time of the 1984 Olympics virtually every team that was in medal contention was riding one.

The Flandrien Hotel’s beautiful Chesini Recordman from 1987 is a stunning example of Italian craftmanship and period era aero innovation. Chesini bicycles was founded in 1925 by Gelmino Chesini in Verona Italy, and by the 1980s the company had
grown under the stewardship of Gelmino’s son Gabriele.

But despite the groovy look of the Chesini Recordman and the hundreds of other “funny” bikes created by race bike manufacturers
around the world after the ’84 Olympics, most of the designs actually delivered very little in terms of aerodynamic efficiency. The bullhorn bars put riders in pretty much the same position as riding in the drops on a standard road bar.

It was not until 1989 that American cyclist Greg Lemond decided to do something that really did deliver significant aero gains. He brought his hands up from the bullhorns and onto a forward protruding handlebar extension designed by a guy named Boone Lennon, a former US national ski team coach. 

And the event in which he chose to do so was none other than the penultimate stage of the Tour de France – in which Lemond
overtook the Frenchman Laurent Fignon to steal victory by the narrowest of margins.

The unforgettable scenes on the Champs-Elysées in 1989 heralded the beginning of cycling’s real aero revolution – and the end of an era for funny bikes like the Chesini Recordman.

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Greg Lemond Z-Team TVT92

Greg Lemond Z-Team TVT92 - 1990

I still can’t believe this beautiful 1990 Team Z bicycle of Greg Lemond fame fell into my lap! It represents one of the finest lugged carbon bicycles of the early 1990s.

I was contacted by my friend and fellow collector Jeannico Roelandt who told me he had come into possession of this amazingly rare bicycle built to commemorate Greg Lemond’s win in the 1990 Tour de France. Jeannico knows that I’m a huge fan of LeMond, and how much it would mean to me to have this bike as part of our Flandrien Hotel collection.

LeMond competed in the Tour de France in 1990 wearing the rainbow jersey of the now iconic French Z-Team. He won his third and final TdF ahead of the Italian Claudio Chiappucci, and his actual race winning bike now sits in the US Bicycling Hall of Fame.

There was a special connection between his 1990 win and Flanders, as Greg, his wife Kathy and their young family had their second home in Marke, a municipal district of Kortrijk at the time.  Before the Tour Greg could be seen riding his brightly coloured Z-Team bike along the winding country lanes of the area.

In fact, Lemond and Kathy had been spending most of the race season in Belgium since 1982.  The couple were treated like Royalty in West Flanders, awarded various honours and accolades over the years by the Kortrijk Town Hall and Municipal Council.

Greg and Kathy made many lifelong friends in the region. Even Flemish cycling legend and former World Champion “Iron” Briek Schotte would drop in for a coffee whenever Lemond had a big win.

Although sporting ‘Greg Lemond’ decals, the Z-Team frame was actually produced by French company TVT. TVT means Tubes Verre Tisse  (tubes in knitted glass) and the carbon-kevlar tubes were bonded together in the alloy lugs using special epoxy bonding agents. There are seven layers of knitted carbon in the tubes plus one layer of aramide – a type of kevlar fibre that resists shocks and breakages.

The tubes used by TVT for their frames were produced by themselves in their factory at St Genix-sur-Guiers in France by their sister company TCT – Techniques Carbone Tisse – which means literally the ‘techniques of knitting carbon.’  

TVT built the first generation of frames in the early 80s. more or less to illustrate that bike frames could be built from carbon tubes and went on to produce complete frames and tubes for brands such as ALAN, Bottechia, LOOK, Concorde and of course LeMond Bicycles.

The number ’92’ in the top tube transfer TVT92 does not mean that the frame was built in that year; the manufacturer decided for no special reason when it launched this model of frame in 1987, to call it the TVT92.

As per Lemond’s team bike, this example is built with Campagnolo C Record components, Selle San Marco Regale saddle and Campagnolo rims. I am still looking for a set of period era TIME pedals, a 26mm C-Record seatpost and funky Scott “drop-in” handlebars.

The bicycle perfectly matches our Greg Lemond Pop-Artwork hanging in the Flandrien Hotel Clubhouse

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ALAN Super Corsa Alu

ALAN Corsa Super Alu - 1988

In 1972 Italian engineer Falconi Lodovico founded ALAN, the first company in the world to design and mass produce an all-aluminium bicycle frame. And not only were ALAN bikes cutting-edge technology for their time – they came in uber cool anodized colours too!

The name ALAN comes from the first two letters of the Lodovico’s children, Alberto and Annamaria. The company’s frames were constructed with a unique method that involved bonding aerospace grade aluminium tubes and lugs using a special epoxy adhesive.

Lodovico collaborated closely with teams and champions on the amateur and professional levels. Over the years his firm’s frames were ridden to 20 cyclo-cross world championships titles, 5 track world championships, numerous one-day classics wins, as well as Grand Tour stage victories. ALAN also supplied finished frames for makes such as  Concorde, Guerciotti and Colnago.

The company’s bicycles were ridden by iconic road cycling teams such as Magniflex, Selle Royal, Café de Colombia, Fanini and many others. And a piece of trivia – Gary Wiggins, the father of Sir Bradley Wiggins, raced on an ALAN bike with Belgian-licensed team Fangio – Marc – Ecoturbo in 1984 and 1985. Better known for his track results, Wiggins senior also raced to a number of pro Kermis wins aboard his aluminium steed (see image of Gary below).

Due to their light weight, ALAN frames were very popular in cyclocross events where riders had to frequently shoulder their bikes. Cyclocross legends like Zweifel, Liboton, Stamnijder, Di Tano, Simunek, Thaler and Kluge all competed on ALAN, and in 2012 a young Mathieu Van der Poel achieved his first World Junior title aboard the Italian brand.

The Flandrien Hotel’s immaculate ALAN Super Corsa LS from the late 1980s utilized a unique patented construction system of threaded tubing and lugs joined with epoxy – not brazed or welded like a traditional steel frame.

With shiny red anodized aluminium tubing, the frame is detailed with bottle cage mounts, shift lever bosses, integrated bottom bracket eyelets, and external brake cable guides. Fitted with a Campagnolo groupset, it also has a pantographed seat post and chainrings.

Early ALAN frames had a reputation for flex but objective comparison of the top models showed that they were equally stiff to a steel frame constructed from Columbus or Reynolds tubes – at least when they left the factory. However the adhesion of the tubes and lugs could degrade over time, so we don’t allow our Super Corsa to be ridden on the harsh cobbles of Flanders.

As with many other iconic European marques, the ALAN lost it’s way somewhat in the 1990s when it failed to keep up with the pace of innovation being set by American & Asian competitors. The firm focused on the niche market of cyclocross, and largely disappeared from the pro road peloton.

This year the company created by Falconi Lodovico celebrates its “golden” anniversary. ALAN is much smaller today than it was in its heyday of the 1970s and 1980s but remains in the hands of the founder’s children– one of the very few iconic Italian brands that has survived as a family-owned firm.

After 50 years in business ALAN is still proudly independent and produces beautifully crafted road, gravel and cyclocross framesets from both aluminium and carbon fibre.

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Cannondale Saeco CAAD TT Bike

Cannondale Saeco Team CAAD TT Bike

Every now and then we find an exceptionally rare classic bicycle for our collection. And this custom “Made in the USA” Saeco Team Cannondale CAAD Time Trial bike really fits the bill! And not only is it rare – it looks absolutely awesome!

Cannondale was founded in 1971 by Joe Montgomery and Murdock MacGregor who made everything from prefab concrete houses to engines, bicycle trailers and pannier bags.  Joe was a big fan of bicycle touring and frustrated by the bicycle offerings on the market he decided to make his own. 

 

The ST500 was the first model launched by Cannondale in 1983, and although it was aimed at bike packers it revolutionized the biking industry by using a special aluminium welding process. In 1992 Cannondale used computer aided design to make a new aluminium frame weighing only 1.2 kgs and created the CAAD moniker (Cannondale Advanced Aluminum Design).

 

In 1997 the CAAD3 road frame was debuted. Cannondale was already big in MTBs, but with the launch of the CAAD3 the company undertook a major shift in the attention it paid to its road bikes. During a meeting at a Tuscan villa, then CEO Scott Montgomery (the son of founder Joe Montgomery) sat down with Italian businessman Sergio Zappella and made a deal to sponsor his Saeco road team.

 

The deal cost Cannondale $500,000, and many thought Joe was crazy as it was one the biggest bike sponsorship deals every signed. But it turned out to be a smart investment with the superstar Mario “Lion King” Cipollini on the team.  

 

But there was a problem – Cannondale didn’t make Time Trial bikes. So the company’s designers had to get to work creating CAAD TT frames for each of the team’s riders – and fast! The bikes that they created were radically different to any other Cannondale available and were only custom made and team issue. 

 

All of the Saeco team’s custom TT bikes were made from laser cut 6000 series Alcoa “Alcalyte” aluminium tubing with TIG welding. The frames were heat treated for retention of strength, hand sanded and finally electrostatically painted.

 

The original team-issue model that we have in our Flandrien Hotel collection was used during the 2000 season, built with the newly released Campagnolo Record 10s groupset and an uber cool integrated Cinelli Angel stem and handlebar. It still looks amazing almost a quarter of a century after it was created.

 

Cannondale made loads of money selling bicycles well into the mid 2000s – until they decided to make motorbikes and rapidly went bankrupt.  

 

The brand still exists today and still makes awesome bikes. But it is no longer in the hands of the founders and alas, the “Made in the USA” sticker has disappeared.

 

 

TIME VXRS – Tom Boonen

The name ‘TIME’ conjures up images of French handmade works of art and the elegance of carbon, lugged frames.

And the most legendary TIME bicycle of all just has to be the VXRS Ulteam as ridden to World Championship victory by Tom Boonen in 2005.

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