LAS VEGAS, NV (BRAIN)—Nearly 100 Colnago retailers received the first copies of Ernesto Colnago’s biography, “Colnago: The Bicycle” yesterday at Interbike.
The beautifully produced, 315-page volume incorporates dozens of vintage photographs showing Colnago with many of the great cyclists he worked with, from Michele Dancelli to Eddy Mercx.
“I was a country guy. I started from nothing,” Colnago said at the reception, which was hosted by Veltec, Colnago’s U.S. distributor. “We were poor. I went from nobody to be something in the world—a VIP.”
Born to a farming family in an Italian village, Colnago has been part of the bicycle industry for more than 60 years. He started work for his first bicycle factory when he was 13.
On his first day, a big pully nearly ripped Colnago’s arm off when it caught his unrolled sleeve. Later, a welder passed his flame over Ernesto’s hand while the young apprentice daydreamed. Even his father had little sympathy. “Next time, pay attention,” he told Ernesto.
An aspiring racer, Colnago broke his leg when he was 19 during the final sprint of a race.
“I was unlucky but I was lucky,” he now says. Forced to work at home, he began assembling wheels He was so gifted that he could earn in one week what he had made in a month of factory labor.
In the book, Colnago describes his first breakthrough. Out riding, he met up with a friend, who happened to be accompanied by the great racer Fiorenzo Magni. Magni, the “Lion of Flanders,” complained during a water break that his right leg was hurting and hadn’t been turning well.
“Excuse me, Signor Fiorenzo, your cranks are not in the correct position. They are not perpendicular as they should be. See?” Colnago told him.
Magni didn’t say anything, but his masseur later arrived at Colnago’s doorstep and asked him to look over Magni’s bike. Colnago reassembled the crankset. Two days later, Magni himself asked Colnago to become his second mechanic at the Giro d’Italia. Colnago would be working under Faliero Masi, “the master of masters.”
Colnago would become one of Italy’s top racing mechanics. But he realized he could be more when, during races, he found himself being invited to dine with such legends as Tullio Campagnolo.
“When all of these people were asking me, ‘what do you think? What is your idea? What is the best solution?’, I realized that people wanted my opinion,” Colnago said Wednesday. “That was the moment that changed my life. I understood I had something different. I had something I could offer.” —Doug McClellan