Fassa Bortolo, an Italian professional cycling team that operated from 2000 to 2005, may now be defunct, but it still holds a significant place in the history of professional cycling. Its riders achieved many victories and its management boasted a wealth of experience. Despite its relatively short lifespan, Fassa Bortolo left an indelible mark on the sport. This article will delve into the history of the team, its successes, and the circumstances that led to its eventual dissolution.
The Birth of Fassa Bortolo
Founded in 2000, Fassa Bortolo was the brainchild of Giancarlo Ferretti, a former professional cyclist turned team manager. Ferretti, a seasoned manager who had previously led teams like Ariostea and MG-Technogym, brought together a mix of young talents and experienced riders. The team’s main sponsor was Fassa Bortolo, an Italian construction materials company. They were later joined by co-sponsor Selle Italia, a bicycle saddle manufacturer.
The Golden Years
Fassa Bortolo quickly made its mark in the world of professional cycling. The team’s crowning achievements were largely due to the performances of star sprinter Alessandro Petacchi. In 2003, Petacchi won six stages of the Giro d’Italia, an impressive feat that firmly placed him among the sport’s elite sprinters.
The 2004 season proved to be even more successful for the team. Petacchi won an astonishing nine stages at the Giro d’Italia. Not quite a record but close to the 12 stages Alfredo Binda won in 1927. He also won four stages of the Tour de France and five stages of the Vuelta a España, making him one of the most successful sprinters of the season. Petacchi also won the Tour de France’s green jersey that year too. Juan Antonio Flecha also took victory in Züri-Metzgete, then part of the forerunner to the WorldTour, the World Cup.
Other notable riders on the team included Fabian Cancellara, a young Swiss talent who would go on to become one of the most accomplished time trialists and classics riders of all time. Cancellara claimed his first major classics result with 4th at the 2004 Paris-Roubaixc, a gruelling one-day classic known as the “Hell of the North”. The peak though was winning the opening time trial of the Tour de France and wearing the yellow jersey for 2 days.
Fassa Bortolo’s success began to wane in 2005. Petacchi still managed to win four stages at the Giro d’Italia and two at the Vuelta a España, but the team’s overall performance was not as strong as in previous years. Rumours of financial difficulties began to circulate, and it was clear that the team’s future was uncertain.
The Demise of Fassa Bortolo
The final nail in the coffin for Fassa Bortolo came in late 2005 when the main sponsor, Fassa Bortolo, decided to discontinue its financial support for the team. This left Ferretti scrambling to find a new sponsor, but his efforts were ultimately unsuccessful. In December 2005, Ferretti announced the dissolution of the team.
Despite its relatively short lifespan, Fassa Bortolo remains a significant chapter in the annals of professional cycling. The team nurtured and showcased the talents of riders like Alessandro Petacchi and Fabian Cancellara, both of whom went on to achieve further success in their careers. The team’s rapid ascent and eventual decline serve as a reminder of the volatile nature of professional sports and the importance of financial stability for a team’s survival.