This 'Black Lightning' version of a late 1990s replica Saeco team Cannondale CAAD3 bike that we found on eBay is sure to appeal to all the Mario Cipollini fans out there.
US bike manufacturer Cannondale made its first CAAD – Cannondale Advanced Aluminium Design – frame in 1997, and what was called the CAAD3 is what's pictured here in a special black-and-gold version, complete with logos from the Italian Saeco team, which it became the bike supplier for in 1997, too.
The team's accomplished sprinter, Mario Cipollini, quickly put the new CAAD frames on the map that year with his five stage wins at the Giro d'Italia and two at the Tour de France, and his star was to rise even further in no small part thanks to Cannondale's subsequent marketing push.
From 1997 to 2001, after which he left for Acqua e Sapone, self-styled playboy Cipollini rode for Saeco on Cannondale bikes, winning 18 Giro stages and eight Tour stages in all during that time. Later, he'd go on to win Milan-San Remo and also become the road race world champion.
In Cipollini's final year with Saeco, Cannondale released a series of 'Black Lightning' – black-and-gold-coloured – bikes and clothing, celebrating their 30th anniversary. By then, Cannondale's CAAD series had reached the CAAD7, and just 300 model-year 2002 CAAD7 frames were released, in a very similar paint job to the 1999 black-and-gold CAAD3 available here.
Try as we might, we can't find any pictorial evidence of Cipollini riding a black-and-gold Cannondale in his time with Saeco, although the Italian Cycling Journal blog has a post from over 10 years ago in which it features a similar-looking Black Lightning Cannondale that it says was used by Cipollini in 1999, although it's hard to see in the picture whether it's a CAAD3 or a CAAD4. Either way, it's certainly got a very gold Hollowgram crankset, and certainly would have complemented some of the Italian rider's outrageous outfits and stunts perfectly.
Who could forget Cipollini's tiger-print and 'muscle' skinsuits, and 'Cipo' dressed up as Julius Caesar? Cannondale simply took the UCI fines for not wearing regulation kit on the chin: the publicity far outweighed the punishment.
It would seem that the 'Black Lightning' moniker is older than 1999, too: in the late 1980s, Cannondale was building frames that were painted black with gold decals, and sold with Suntour components, which were also referred to as Black Lightning models.
Cipollini retired from professional racing in 2005 – and then came out of retirement in 2008 to briefly race for US squad Rock Racing, before soon retiring definitively the same year.
Life hasn't been particularly straightforward for Cipollini in retirement, in a number of ways, but he'll be remembered for his flamboyance on the bike, and for truly putting Cannondale road bikes on the map, thanks both to his victories and marketing efforts.
The Dorset, UK-based seller is asking £495 (US$620) for the complete Cannondale bike pictured here, which is built with the Shimano 105 groupset of the late 1990s, and has a few chips in the paint as a result of its age.
We've also found this frame-only listing for what would appear to be the same CAAD3 frame, but in a slightly smaller size than the 56cm-sized frame of the bike listed here.
We're constantly on the lookout for unique and rare cycling relics on eBay. If you have any suggestions or leads, please send them to email@example.com with 'eBay Finds' in the subject line.
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