TRAVEL

The boy who won everything with his own hands



Ogo de Rosa took it further than anyone else The illusion that any child has to ride a bike: to do it in one made with their own hands. This was what I had in mind when I was 13 and began studying mechanics shortly after Italy had emerged from World War II and the country had found solace only in the achievements of its mathematicians. De Rosa, like any child, Let imaginations run wild with the exploits of Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali. He stayed glued to his father’s radio waiting for their results in the Grand Tours and when they came to Milan, the city where he grew up and the main engine of Italian cycling, he approached the finish line hoping to see them up close and hopefully to get a homage from one of his idols.

Ugo de Rosa’s father wanted his son to get a job at the Pirelli factory, but the boy’s goal was different. He wanted to make bikes, the most beautiful in the world, the ones that the best cyclists in the world want, The ones that giants like Kobe and Bartali deserve. That’s why he started working in his uncle Filippo Fassi’s workshop where he repaired bicycles and motorbikes. Good place to learn. Ugo was an extraordinary apprentice. His head was looking at things deeper and looking for ways to evolve, to make bikes make the riders who ride them better.

For a time, Ugo de Rosa juggled work in his uncle’s workshop with the hope of becoming a cyclist. He was sixteen years old when he put aside that hope. It happened after the Caldirola Cup he went to with a bike he had borrowed from his uncle and saw that he wasn’t up to par with most of the boys who competed with him. Oddly enough, this race was won by Ernesto Colnago, who years later became one of the largest bicycle manufacturers in Italy. from this moment, Ugo de Rosa decided that his great victories in the cycling world would not come thanks to his legs, but rather his hands.

He was nineteen when he decided it was time to move away from his uncle and start his own bike shop. It was installed in 1953 on Via Pila in Milan, an area of ​​the city teeming with cycling and where many other manufacturers are located. Or the team headquarters, taking advantage of the proximity of Vigorelli, the legendary Milanese velodrome where Koppi broke the world record and where Anquetil, Baldini and Roger Riviere were also doing it in the fifties. in his youth work Ugo De Rosa has become obsessed with making the best bicycle frames seen to date.

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The only material available at that time was steel, which when cut, polished and welded became a gem created for the competition. But the purity of his designs and engineering innovations put him in the forefront alongside the greats of the time such as Cinelli or Massi. In the next five years his fame began to spread. The riders talked about the innovative designs of an extraordinary young man who worked to order in a small Milanese workshop and quite a few communicated with him.

but The great moment was when Frenchman Raphael Géminiani crossed paths in 1958.. “great fusel & rdquo; Already second in the Tour de France, he went on to compete in Vigorelli and Ugo de Rosa managed to get him to try out one of his creations. The Frenchman was impressed and immediately ordered the bikes with which to compete in the next Tour de France. after many months, Géminiani climbed to the podium in Paris With a bike that at the time was wearing a blue and white shield with a rainbow as a symbol on its rim.

The publicity of that Géminiani platform and the comments of many other Italian riders who rode their bikes increased the number of orders and forced him to expand his workshop in Milan. It was then that he erased the blue and white shield on his frames and replaced it with the red heart that would become world famous and which even today remains the hallmark of his unmistakable creations.

In 1969 he acquired another famous client: the Italian Gianni Motta He was one of Eddy Merckx’s loyal assistants at Molten and was looking for a supplier for the team he had just assembled. Mota could be the perfect bridge to meet Ugo de Rosa and Merckx. The encounter with the “cannibals” finally took place during the Six Days of Milan, an event that takes place every year in Vigorelli. The young craftsman, through the mediation of his former Molteni partner, gave Merckx two boards to use on the track, and the Belgian was stunned by the design, even Although at first it was difficult for them to get along with the guilt from the strong personality of both, each one in his field.

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They began to cooperate intermittently even In 1973 Merckx, which demanded everything on its team, decided that De Rosa would become the permanent manufacturer of Molteni bicycles He was also a personal mechanic at the big races. From that moment on, Ugo de Rosa became a staple in the life of the Belgian cyclist. He was insanely demanding, but no one answered him like an Italian craftsman. For someone so meticulous, obsessive, and obsessive about every detail, meeting someone like De La Rosa was a gift to him. Your soul mate in search of perfection: one on the road, the other in the shop.

On more than one occasion, during the Giro d’Italia, he would order a plate from day to day and De Rosa would spend hours in the workshop to then climb into a car and travel what was necessary to arrive in time for assembly and Merckx could use it in the race the next day. In this way, a relationship that transcended professionalism was established. Merckx has never used another bike that hasn’t left the Cusano Milanino factory, the place where the company has established itself over time thanks to its massive success.

With De Rosa’s red heart in the saddle, Merckx won all the big races on the calendar He has brilliantly completed the last five years of his career: the Tour de France, two Giros Italia, the Tour of Spain, two Liege, the Tour of Flanders, the Road World Championships in 1974, two Milan-San Remo, one Paris-Roubaix and Mulder; Merckx always regrets that their life has not crossed over before.

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The De Rosa-Merckx friendship went far beyond the retirement of the Belgian cyclist. When he retired in 1978, he admitted his intention to create his own brand of bicycles, a step taken by many of the top riders of his era. De Rosa told him he would teach him the secrets of such a trade. He kept that promise meticulously, and when Eddy Merckx launched his project, he spent months in the Cusano Milanino factory. The workers were impressed the first day they saw him enter the factory with his boss in the traditional blue suit and welding glasses on his face. He spent months in Milan learning to run a bicycle factory.

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A year later, de Rosa revisited Belgium and settled in Meise, on the outskirts of Brussels, where Merckx lived, to supervise the start-up of his factory and personally direct its workers. And only when he saw that business could begin with guarantees, he returned home to continue building his little empire and supplying the next generation of champions (Francesco Moser, Gianni Pugno & mldr;).

De Rosa and her children have taken care of a successful business that adapts to its time, with the arrival of new materials, the demands of modern cycling and changing riders. Always catering to the celebrities in the peloton as well as the passionate fans. The news of the death of Ugo De Rosa this week, after suffering a heart attack at the age of 89, sent grief through the cycling world.. He was just months away from attending his company’s 70th anniversary, which he had been looking forward to. At his funeral – which took place a few days ago in Cusano Milanino, near the bike factory – his son Cistiano spent more time consoling the emotional Eddy Merckx than the other way around. “He was a father to me, the kindest person in the world, the best, the most humble, we won’t find another like him,” told reporters who approached the Belgian.

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