|Before the US National Road Race Championship, August 1982.
It's a faded memory I needed to keep drawing upon several times this past season...
Way back in 1981 I was recruited by Constantin Negulescu to join his Northstar Bicycle Club. The ex-Romanian national team rider had put together an elite US Amateur team, sponsored by a slate of leading Italian cycling brands: Bicicletas Benotto, Gipiemme components, Ambrosio rims, Hutchinson tires and IscaSella Saddles. With the exception of Hutchinson (who still makes killer tubeless tires... raced this whole season on one pair), most are brands either dead, or largely missing in action. But back in '82, well, it was the perfect gear.
|"Good enough for Roger DeVlaeminck or Moser,
good enough for you!"
My Benotto was a 54cm, Columbus steel-tubed Benotto frame. Mine had diamond shaped chainstays, but some were oval. It was Benotto team issue, not sure if my frame was made in Mexico or Italy. It could have been made of stovepipe, it didn't matter one bit to me. For you see, it was a team issue Benotto.
What did matter was that it was painted in the exact same team metallic gold, with the same blue oval logo decals. A team issue Benotto. A pro bike.
|Belivacqua solos to Roubaix, 1951 on his
The brand his Sanson teammate Ole Ritter rode in his Mexico hour record attempt in 'The Impossible Hour.'
And it was the brand that Antonio Belivacqua rode to Win Paris-Roubaix in 1951.
|De Vlaeminck, Braun, Mount and Argentin. They all rode Benotto.
|Moser's Benotto nailed at the line,
Nurburgring Worlds, 1978
My basement had a Benotto calendar featuring a young Sammontana rider - not well known at the time - named Moreno Argentin. I used to look at it while cleaning that Benotto, the saddle and bars hanging from old sew up tires as a workstand, and think, "I'm 21, that kid's 21, and he's already on the pro squad. Why not me too?"
It was a thought seeded by Signore Giacinto Benotto himself at the New York International cycle show earlier that year. Connie introduced me to him at the booth. He pointed to the Poster of Mount and said to me, "If you can ride like him, we'll bring you to Italy too". When you're young, anything seems possible - even if it isn't. A truth that only set in when I watched Argentin win the Worlds in Colorado in 1986.
|Giacino Benotto, and his team issue Benotto, circa 1982.
Our sponsorship didn't end with a Benotto frame. There was also a full Gipiemme grouppo, which was actually a mix of outsourced and relabeled components made by other manufacturers: The same brakes that were also labeled Modolo or Mavic at the time; Simplex derailleurs that had really super retro-friction, never-slip down tube shifters. Then there were two pair of Ambrosio dark-grey anodized 32 hole rims; a leather covered IscaSelle turbo look alike saddle, and a fistfull of Hutchinson tubular tires.
And then there was Benotto cellotape. The non-slip candy colored plastic tape in a wild range of colors that was the rage in the pro peloton in the 80's. For us you could pick any color you wanted, as long as it was blue. You had to file the sharp flash off the matching plastic end plugs though, otherwise you'd slash your leg at some point and get blood all over.
|This 3rd in Manchester, CT was one of the few podiums my
Benotto ever saw. Must have been the 'no socks, no gloves'
and time trials. A white long sleeved wool team jersey with flocked lettering for allenamento. Black long wool tights and a few pair of black lyrca shorts which all had BENOTTO embroidered in white down the sides, and a semi-perforated white short sleeve synthetic blend jersey which was great in hot road races in days when wool was still de-rigueur in summer. A half dozen white cotton Benotto caps with rainbow stripe for training, and some thin white wool similarly-striped Benotto socks. And to top it all off a white vinyl Benotto shoulder bag to put it all in. The only things we were left on our own to supply were shoes, leather strap helmets and freewheels.
Professionally outfitted head to to toe, from there, as in the best Euro tradition, the rest was largely up to us. That Benotto saw a lot of motorpacing miles, a lot of battles in all weathers and roads, and a lot of sweat. So much sweat, that by the end of the season, the paint was literally flaking off the tubes. Not the best of paint.. but that didn't matter to me. It was a team issue Benotto you see.
|Moser in maillot jaune, on a Benotto in the 1975 Tour de France.
The most impeccable TT stylist ever.
I admit, toward the end of the season, the care was getting less loving. It was a bike after all, a tool. And I was a guy who, well, when it came to 'profuse, corrosive sweating', was world champion material, no question about it. Maybe the mystique had gone out of the bike, as on it I'd struggled to only a paltry handful of top 5 places, and no wins... a palmares far from the results needed to earn that berth in Italy. Never mind maintain 'protected-sprinter' status on a squad that was continually searching for, and taking on more talented hopefuls in a rotating, rolling mind game that should have been the prototype for a reality TV show called 'Ciclismo Idol'. It was every man for himself.
|Old school trick
(photo courtesy raydobbins.com)
As he spoke, he flipped my rusty beat-up Benotto upside down... and lo and behold...discovered a piece of wood (it was an old broomhandle actually) that I'd jammed up the steerer tube as insurance the very day I put the Benotto together. Yup, Belgian-bred old school baby - Gus Van Cauwenberghe had already taught this 'spoiled' 20 year old American le metier pretty darn well. No eastern bloc flies on this flahute!
|Ole Ritter was Benotto boy.
|With my ol' D.S. Constantin and Pilar in Segovia.
Connie's team moved to other bike sponsors in following years. Batavus, and Colnago. Benotto left the international Pro peloton by the early 90's, but the company still is prominent in Latin American cycling.
Constantin has his own bike brand now, available in Spain. Check it out here. I noticed in the photos there that Pedro Delgado is riding one. Says a lot I think.
Happy Thanksgiving cafesupporters. My best to your families, and eat some turkey (but not too much!)