Deal should see legendary Italian brand return to Tour de France after three-year absence

Legendary Italian brand Bianchi will be back in the top ranks of professional cycling next season after signing a two-year deal to supply Vacansoleil DCM. Currently, the Dutch WorldTour outfit’s riders race on Ridley bikes, with Marco Marcato riding one to second place in today’s Paris-Tours.

At the moment, Bianchi sponsors UCI Professional Continental team Androni Giocattoli, and although it enjoyed two Giro d’Italia stage wins this year after receiving a wild card entry, the team, and Bianchi, were absent from both the Tour de France and Vuelta, as well as most of the big one-day races.

That's a sorry state of affairs for fans of one of cycling's most historic names - Edoardo Bianchi set up his business in Milan's Via Nirone 126 years ago, and great names to have ridden Bianchi bikes to success include Gianni Bugno, Moreno Argentin, Felice Gimondi, Marco Pantani and, perhaps the biggest star of all, il campionissimo, Fausto Coppi.

The new deal means that Bianchi will figure in all of cycling’s big races next year, however, including the Tour de France, which it last won in 1998 with Pantani, who had also won the Giro d’Italia earlier that year, making Bianchi the last bicycle to have been ridden to victory in both races in the same season. The brand has been missing from the Tour de France the past three years, however.

That will change next season, with Vacansoleil-DCM will be racing on Bianchi’s Oltre frames. We saw the 2012 version on their press launch earlier this year – that’s Mat in the picture above putting one through its paces, and here’s his thoughts on the 2011 model.

Talking about Bianchi’s move back into the top level of the sport, CEO Bob Ippolito said: “Bianchi Oltre is the ideal bike for professional and expert riders, and our new partnership with Vacansoleil-DCM will  provide us with an important  opportunity to further develop and test our carbon technology”, Bianchi CEO Bob Ippolito said.

Salvatore Grimaldi, owner of Bianchi and the company’s president, added: "With the sponsorship of Vacansoleil-DCM, Bianchi continues to expand its investment in performance cycling and global sports marketing. Our goal is to increase our presence and visibility as one of the world’s leading performance cycling brands”.

For Daan Luijkx, manager of Vacansoleil-DCM, the partnership gives his team the opportunity to tap into Bianchi’s racing heritage. “For us Bianchi is the best option for our long term strategy and we look forward to our winning co-operation,” he said.

“With a history of 126 years,  we believe Bianchi will be  an incredible partner.  The Bianchi Oltre stands for high-technology, advanced product development and Italian design which support our goal to reach victories in WorldTour races. Both Vacansoleil-DCM and Bianchi are product driven with a global vision”.

Other components to complete the bikes will be provided by Bianchi Technical suppliers FSA, Vision, Fast Forward, Vredestein, Selle San Marco, Elite and KMC.

As for Ridley's existing bike sponsor, Ridley, they have signed a contract to supply the Lotto team for the next eight years, almost an eternity by the standards of the sport. For next year at least, the team will be called Lotto-Ridley.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.