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What you don’t know about Colnago. Ernesto, the company and the brand.

Ernesto Colnago is 84 years old and from what I can see from observation, he still single headedly runs his company, Colnago. Impressive! He’s an extremely switched on businessman and incredibly passionate. If you ever have the privilege to meet him, you’ll realise you’ve just experienced meeting one of the most honourable man in the cycling industry.

I was privileged enough to meet both Ernesto and Alex Colnago 15 years ago and kept sporadic but consistent communication with the family over the next 10 years before an opportunity came up to ‘work’ with the family, company and brand.

My dealings with Colnago regarding sponsorship of Wiggle High5 are always directly with Ernesto and Alex Colnago and, every single time I meet with them, they’ve allocated their day to me and make me feel extremely important. They’re 100% engaged with me, everything I say, my athletes and the team.

They don’t just sponsor the team, they ‘support’ and ‘follow’ the team with immense passion.

Can you believe that Ernesto Colnago personally came to our team’s presentation and dinner in 2014? It was so overwhelming for our team staff and athletes. Ernesto was not just there, he was really there! He was meeting all the athletes and genuinely interested in their careers, goals and their place within the team.

Colnago sponsored our team, Wiggle Honda from day one. They sponsored in a big way with a 3-year contract, 2013-2015. The rumours around the peloton were that our team had the nicest equipment because Rochelle Gilmore had a money tree and was buying the equipment from Colnago and Campagnolo….. not true.

I presented Colnago my plan to start a women’s pro team at the highest level and I articulated that I only wanted to partner with committed and passionate brands. At this point, I was unsure if Colnago would be this partner and I’m sure they had hesitations about a new team operating at the highest level and, if we’d actually succeed in reaching World no.1 within 3 years. We put faith in each other and we’re now enjoying a very rewarding partnership.

Last week I drove 10hrs with broken ribs and a broken wrist to collect a new bike from Colnago, following a nasty crash with a car. I knew that I’d not be able to ride for a few days so I asked if I could come and have my bike replaced. I realise Colnago can’t offer this service to everyone however my point here is to express the intent, passion and personality of Ernesto Colnago.

It was on this day that I realised exactly who this man is, what he’s about and how seriously passionate he is about women’s cycling.

When I arrived at Colnago I gave my crashed bike to the Colnago mechanics and they started to build the group/parts over onto the new C60 frame. It’s a huge honour that the warehouse workers put their other daily activities on hold to build my bike!

My new C60 built up in the warehouse while I was meeting with Mr. Colnago.

While they were building the bike, Alex Colnago took me around the offices to say hi to everyone. We then went and spent some time in the showroom having a close look at the new models for 2017…. and what was impressive…. Alex started to mention which specific models he thought would be perfect for each rider on our team. This expressed his knowledge of our riders and their specialties and… even their weights.

It was interesting because while we were in the showroom studying the 2017 models, Alex kept referring to the performance of each bike relating to each of our athletes – while my mind was constantly thinking about how our athletes could assist in the launch and promotions of these models. Perhaps this is why we’re experiencing a nice partnership, both focusing on each other’s needs rather than our own.

Alex Colnago and I then went to spend some time with Ernesto in his office. While we were in there discussing all types of team, sponsorship and industry related topics there was a steady flow of employees popping in to ask Ernesto’s opinion on things… or how to handle/manage situations etc. It was a very nice atmosphere and whilst the operations are very traditional, it’s simple and pleasant.

During this meeting Alessandro Colnago popped in to present a 48s Pink Colnago C60 frame to me….. I must say my first reaction was butterflies… The Giro Rosa had not started yet but there was a pink frame for Mara Abbott already prepared. The frame carried the Italian flag so I first thought it was for Elisa however, they informed me it was Mara’s size. We’re at day 6 of the Giro Rosa and Mara’s in Pink!

Ernesto Colnago presenting me with Mara’s Pink Giro Rosa frame and Jersey!
Mara takes the leader’s jersey on day 5, the Mortirolo stage at the Giro Rosa!

I started to realise that these guys are really into Women’s Cycling. They started to discuss the stages and when Mara might take Pink and also Elisa’s chances this year. They decided they’d not build Mara’s bike until it was quite sure she’d take Pink…. They thought it might be a jinx if they were to build it ready too soon!

Mara ahead of stage 6 at the Giro Rosa, with the pressure of PINK!

Ernesto talked about his decision to sponsor the Giro Rosa and it sounds to me that if he/Colnago didn’t take on the main sponsorship of the race, it would have been in jeopardy. I got the impression it was a really heartfelt decision for Ernesto to support the Giro Rosa. I certainly felt his enthusiasm and pride in financially supporting the event. He’s so engaged with it, he made a couple of phone calls to the organisation and Rai Sport TV during our meeting to answer some of my questions and it was evident that he’s a man with a desire to promote Women’s Cycling.

Colnago branding on podium roof – Wiggle High5 at the Giro Rosa

To be honest, I can’t really believe how strongly Ernesto and Colnago as a brand are standing behind Women’s Cycling. These are things people don’t know and – even I wouldn’t know how strong his passion is if I didn’t spend some time with him (Ernesto) leading into the Giro Rosa.

Why do I find it so special? I think it’s because it’s not a simple commercial decision to sponsor our team or the Giro Rosa and it doesn’t stop with some contract terms, it’s a successful man poring his passion into making a difference, promoting our sport and giving women the opportunity to perform at the most professional level possible.

Colnago branding behind these successful women at the Giro Rosa

We continued to discuss all things women’s cycling including the fact that Mara’s Dad was coming to the Giro this year to support Mara and how these small things can make a huge difference. We decided that we’d prepare a Colnago for Mara’s Dad to loan while he’s here – as he often personally recce’s the climbs for Mara the day before or morning of the stages! We planned a nice experience for Mara’s Dad to come into the Colnago factory and collect the bike. Everything suggested or planned with Colnago is done with passion…. I love it.

Ernesto and I discussed the dream of supporting Elisa Longo Borghini to a Giro Rosa win in the future…. That would be a real dream for an Italian – to win the Giro, supported by her Italian sponsor…. Colnago. Ernesto and Alex also asked loads of questions about our other athletes and their future goals – again, super impressive they know all of our riders!

Elisa sprinting to 2nd behind Mara’s solo victory – Colnago branded barricades

It’s incredible that I can sit in front of Ernesto Colnago (84) and feel that he appreciates what I have to offer through Women’s Cycling. When I sit there speaking about modern forms of marketing through our sport of Women’s Cycling, he is engaged.

I’ve been blown away.

The man and the brand….. are all heart.

On behalf of Women’s Cycling – Thank you Colnago.

Hats off to Mr. Colnago for supporting the Women’s Giro Rosa!

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