1983 was to be a great year for Parentini. Having been in business just seven years, they nevertheless were appointed kit supplier to the famous Del Tongo – Colnago team. This powerful squad included one of the superstars of Italian cycling – Giuseppe Saronni.
Saronni was the darling of the tifosi, after he showed a devastating burst of speed in the final kms of the 1982 World Championships at Goodwood, beating Greg LeMond and Sean Kelly to the line. He then followed this up (as many World Champs do) with victory in the final monument classic of the season at the Tour of Lombardy.
So in January 1983, Parentini found themselves in the enviable position of having to make the famous ‘Rainbow’ striped jersies, as well as a full complement of the famous yellow and blue kit for the other Del Tongo riders. The subsequent months would see Parentini gain much experience and feedback from the World Champion, as he carved out arguably his best ever season.
After a few wins at low key events in February and March, this successful partnership really got going at the first ‘monument’ of the season – Milan San Remo. Here Saronni managed to escape the field, and crossed the line in San Remo with 44 seconds to spare. Plenty of time to get his World Champs jersey looking just right.
He carried this form into April, firstly at Liege Bastogne Liege, (the oldest of cycling’s monuments and one of the hilliest) where he finished second to Dutchman Stevan Rooks, then at the season’s first grand tour – La Vuelta. Here, he lined up as one of the favourites for the overall, alongside Bernard Hinault and Marino Lejaretta, in what was described as the most spectacular edition of La Vuelta in history. Saronni took stage victory on Stage 9 and then the following day he took flight with Hinault and Hennie Kuiper in the stage winning break. Again Saronni was victorious and Hinault took some valuable time from his main rivals. Hinault would eventually take overall honours in a ding dong battle with the rising stars of Spanish cycling.
With a tough Spanish tour in his legs, Saronni approached May’s Giro d’Italia with high hopes. Three weeks later he would be in the record books.
In the 1980s Italy had two cycling superstars – Saronni and his rival Francesco Moser. Now neither of these two riders would admit to being mountain goats, so the Giro organisers designed the courses to play to their strengths. Which meant less climbing and more time trials and flatter stages with time bonuses. So it was that Saronni took advantage on Stage 4 winning the stage, and then picked up bonuses in other stages to don the Maglia Rosa on Stage 7. He would keep it on his shoulders to the end in Udine. Stage 13 was a key battleground. The time trial from Reggio Emilia to Parma was only short at 38km, but Saronni used his power to win the stage and gain some valuable time over his climbing rivals Fernadez and Lejarreta. This was vital with the mountainous Dolomites awaiting him in the final week. Saronni kept his consistency, picking up time bonuses, and playing it cagey in the mountains.
Roberto Visentini got the better of Saronni on the last stage – an individual time trial finishing in Udine. But it didn’t matter, Saronni won overall by 1:07 and had written himself into the record books. 1983s Giro is still the fastest ever (38.9km/h) and Saronni joined just two other riders, Alfredo Binda and Eddy Merckx, in winning the Giro whilst wearing the rainbow jersey.
There’s no doubt Saronni’s exploits in the rainbow jersey really helped to catapult Parentini into the tifosi’s mind – and also gave the new company valuable experience and insight, helping them become the brand they are today.
Yes, 1983 was a great year.