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Mapei boss Giorgio Squinzi dies aged 76

Mapei boss Giorgio Squinzi (left) with overall 2002 UCI World Cup winner Paolo Bettini
Mapei boss Giorgio Squinzi (left) with overall 2002 UCI World Cup winner Paolo Bettini
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Giorgio Squinzi, the director of chemical building materials company Mapei – which was the main sponsor during the 1990s and 2000s of one of the most successful men's cycling teams in the sport's history – has died after a long illness. He was 76.

Squinzi was born in Cisano Bergamasco, in Lombardy, Italy, in 1943, six years after his father, Rodolfo, had founded the Mapei company. Giorgio took over as general manager of Mapei in 1976, and quickly expanded his father's business worldwide.

Sponsorship of the Mapei cycling team, as both a marketing move and thanks to Squinzi and his father's passion for the sport, began in 1993, taking over as the main sponsor of the Eldor-Viner team in May of that year, and then merging with Spanish outfit Clas-Cajastur in 1994 to become Mapei-Clas, and beginning its reign as one of the most powerful teams in professional bike racing.

Boasting the likes of Tony Rominger, Johan Museeuw, Andrea Tafi, Paolo Bettini, Oscar Freire, Frank Vandenbroucke, Pavel Tonkov, Abraham Olano and Gianni Bugno over the years, Mapei dominated the sport, winning Paris-Roubaix five times, the Tour of Flanders three times, the Vuelta a España and the Giro d'Italia – with Rominger in 1994 and 1995, respectively – as well as taking 15 Tour de France stage wins and multiple national championships titles, and the World Championships road race four times, albeit with the team's riders racing for their national teams in the latter.

Mapei ended its sponsorship of the team at the end of the 2002 season – then as Mapei-QuickStep – but has remained in the sport through sponsorship of various cycling events and other sports. Squinzi was also the owner and president – with Mapei as the current shirt sponsor – of football club US Sassuolo, taking his local team from Italy's fourth division in 2005 to Serie A in 2013.

New UCI Worlds sponsorship deal

Just over a week ago, Squinzi and Mapei agreed a new three-year sponsorship deal with the UCI, ensuring that the company will remain as the main partner of the UCI Road World Championships until at least the end of 2022, and now ensuring that Squinzi's influence and legacy lives on in the sport.

"For Mapei, cycling is not only a sport or a communication tool. It reflects the values enclosed in our company DNA, on which Mapei have founded the basis for their success: effort, constant team work and the determination to take on new challenges," Squinzi said in a press release after signing the deal at the end of September.

"For 11 years now, Mapei has been part of our Championships," added UCI president David Lappartient. "Our partner appears on arches, banners, vehicles... Their blue and white logo is closely associated with the imagery of our flagship event. This partnership extension is evidence of their renewed trust and the appeal of our sport."

Following Squinzi's death in Milan on Wednesday, various former riders and figures within cycling were quick to pay tribute to him on social media, with Lappartient writing on Twitter: "Sad to hear of the passing of Mapei chairman and passionate cycling fan Giorgio Squinzi."

EF Education First sports director Charly Wegelius, who rode for Mapei for three seasons from 2000 until 2002, wrote on Twitter that "Giorgio Squinzi's passion for cycling changed my life forever", while former CSC and Orica-GreenEdge press officer Brian Nygaard, now working as a journalist, called Squinzi "one of the most important figures in modern cycling".

Nygaard also posted an accompanying picture of Museeuw winning the 1996 Paris-Roubaix ahead of teammates Gianluca Bortolami and Andrea Tafi, making it a Mapei 1-2-3 that year. Ahead of Museeuw's win, Mapei team manager Patrick Lefevere – today the manager of Deceuninck-QuickStep – had apparently received a phone call from Squinzi, who gave the order as to which rider should win.

Cyclingnews would like to extend its condolences to Giorgio Squinzi's family and friends.