Almost 130 years after the Bianchi bike company was created in Milan, the Italian company's trademark celeste is again colouring the city thanks to the opening of a new Cafe & Cycles store. Click here for the full gallery.
Much like the successful Rapha Cycle Clubs, the Bianchi Cafe & Cycles includes a Bianchi bike and accessories store, a bike fit studio, restaurant, events lounge and cafe bar, all stylishly decorated with Bianchi bikes, products, memorabilia and huge images of Fausto Coppi who helped make the Bianchi brand so well known in the seventies.
The 570sq metre space is on four levels and was officially opened on Wednesday evening with a celeste 'red carpet', celeste cocktails and a huge celeste bike-shaped cake. Even the espresso cups were stylishly embossed with the Bianchi name.
The Bianchi Cafe & Cycles is in Via Felice Cavalotti 8, in the white marble Duomo and Piazza Beccaria. An inner courtyard offers a secure place to leave bikes.
The yellow and celeste Bianchi that Marco Pantani used to win the 1998 the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France in 1998 takes centre place in the lounge area, along with the bike Felice Gimondi used to win the 1973 world title. Gimondi is famous for taking on Eddie Merckx during the peak of his career and still managed to win all three Grand Tours, including three editions of the Giro d'Italia. Gimondi attended the inauguration of the Bianchi Cafe & Cycles the day after celebrating his 72nd birthday.
The Milan Cafe & Cycles is the sixth of its kind after the first was opened in Stockholm in 2010. Others have followed in Scandinavia and even Tokyo and Cyclingnews understands that Bianchi is currently searching for a location in central London.
Bianchi President Salvatore Grimaldi officially opened the store. He was born in Taranto, in the south of Italy but moved to Sweden when he was seven and has built up the Cycleurope group of bike brands that also includes Peugeot, Gitane, Puch and DBS.
“I'm a businessman and I'm pay attention to the detail on everything I do but I hope I also combine Swedish precision with Italian creativity and Italian style. I've never liked that Bianchi bikes - arguably the most beautiful bikes in world, are often on sale amongst other brands and that's why we first created the Bianchi store in Stockholm,” Grimaldi explained during the opening party on Wednesday evening.
“My wife thought I was mad to open stores because its very different to all our other activities but I like being a little crazy. I hope this Cafe & Cycles become a much-loved part of Milan's city centre. It's for cyclists but also for anyone looking for a great place to eat something, have an informal meeting, get a good coffee or an evening aperitivo.”
Like many of the smaller bike brands, Bianchi is trying to take on the giants of the cycling industry such as Specialized and Trek. It hopes that the Cafe & Cycles concept is a way of showing off its products and 130-year heritage. Bianchi sells both road and mountain bikes in 60 countries, with its headquarters outside of Milan in the town of Treviglio near Bergamo.
Bianchi partnered with Belkin this season and will stay with the Dutch team in 2015 when it is sponsored by LottoNL. Cyclingnews understands Bianchi will also increase its involvement in its mountain bike team headed by former Under 23 world champion Gerhard Kerschbaumer.