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Fair Verona.

An architectural and artistic jewel, wrapped in imposing fortified walls and surrounded by rolling hills and pristine vineyards. How do you capture that with a bicycle design?

We had to try. Verona is as charming a city as you’ll find anywhere in Europe, a Unesco-protected labyrinth of Roman ruins, medieval cobbled streets, and Renaissance art. It’s famously the setting for history’s most famous love story, Romeo and Juliet. But we were motivated by something else, because it is also the home of our very own Eros Poli. And the man loves his hometown. Like, really loves it.

Spend any time with the big man and you’ll know all about it. The food’s the best, the wine is amazing, the riding there is unbeatable. As far as Eros is concerned, there’s nowhere like it. 

So for his 60th birthday this summer, we wanted to do something special for him that could celebrate the place he loves while also celebrating the guy we love, too. And the gang at Pinarello were only too happy to oblige. 

Eros and Pinarello go way back. It was on one of their bikes that he won his famous Mont Ventoux stage at the Tour in ‘94, and there’s been a close bond ever since. So to see Eros reach a milestone birthday in style, they created an extremely limited edition version of their superbike, the Dogma F. Only 10 were produced, which has left a lot of us extremely jealous because it’s an absolute stunner.

To find out a bit more about the creation of this wonderful machine, we caught up with the man behind it, cycling designer extraordinaire, Manuel Bottazzo.

Photo courtesy of Roby Bragotto
Photo courtesy of Roby Bragotto

Have you known Eros for a long time? 

This might sound strange, but I’m really attached to Eros! For me, he’s like those dots that Steve Jobs talked about in his famous speech at Standford. 

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” – STEVE JOBS

In a way, Eros marked the beginning of my career. I actually did my first graphics work for Pinarello for his team in 1994, I didn’t know him personally at that stage, I only knew him as a bit of a legend. But slowly he infected me with his great charisma, and now whenever he’s home, I’ll go to ride with him. We’ll almost always end the rides back at his house, eating salami and drinking good wine with his wife.

How does a design like this start out?

I’d already designed his bike for the 25th anniversary of his win on Mont Ventoux. That was a replica of the ‘94 bicycle, which was a fascinating project for a designer like me. 

But for this birthday bike, he expressly asked me for every detail. Eros loves Verona, he loves his roots. He wanted the bike to show the colors of the city, he wanted all of its symbols. It was also important for us that the bike captured the elegance of his city.

The flag of Verona is yellow and blue, but I preferred to replace that yellow with gold, and the light blue with an opaque midnight blue, finished with silver logos. 

I think the result is this fabulous celebration of a fabulous man.

Over the years, you’ve designed many bikes for famous cyclists…

I have been working for Pinarello since 1992, so you can imagine how many illustrious names have asked for special projects. 

I’ve lost count, but we’ve done them for everyone from rock stars to famous athletes. And not just cyclists; Soccer stars, F1 and MotoGP drivers, players from the NFL, NHL, NBA. Famous politicians, too, and Hollywood stars.

If I had to name just one who stood out most, I’d say Robin Williams. He was a huge Pinarello fan. 

And then of course, there’s all the cycling greats. Is it fun to see your work leading the Giro d’Italia or the Tour de France?

Rather than say “fun,” I’d say it’s very gratifying. It’s always beautiful to see your work, racing and winning at a Grand Tour. 

But what I say next might surprise you. I think I take it in my stride, it’s a great privilege, but it affects me more when I meet ordinary riders on something I’ve helped create. That’s special, and it makes me feel very grateful for all of the people around me and the wonderful people I work with at Pinarello. 

And it always makes me think of my dad, who was called Fausto. He was always proud of my work, he was my number one fan. 

And of all your work, do you have a favorite bike?

I couldn’t choose one favorite because I’ve lived with them all and loved them all. 

I adored the first bike Fausto Pinarello gave me, an aluminum Paris. And then there was the first Prince, in carbon. Every evolution of the Dogma has been special, right up to the current model, the Dogma F. 

That’s special to me because it was born in the middle of the Covid pandemic. We were all locked up at home, working on something that promised freedom and movement. 

Every project has some memorable detail. Each one takes a lot of effort and always sparks lots of enthusiasm. Then they become stories, anecdotes, adventures. For me, each bike promises many happy hours, riding alone, thinking about the future. 

Come ride with Eros!

Check out all of the trips that Eros is doing this season and find the perfect adventure to join him on.

To celebrate his birthday, he’ll be riding in the countryside around Verona on a specially-designed, a once-in-a-lifetime ride as big, and as fun, as the man himself. But he’ll also be leading our trips in northern Italy and in Provence, where he made history at the Tour de France.

Colin O'Brien

Colin is an author and journalist from Ireland. He first met inGamba's founder João Correia back in 2013. João handed him a bidon full of Chianti Classico and took him to a three-course lunch. They've been friends ever since.