Sunday, May 5, 2013

1998 Tour de France Bianchi Pantani Mercatone Uno Team Replica build

My 1998 replica build

*** send me pictures of your bianchi-pantani build and I'll post them here ****
                                      sent images to

Marco's build from Canada
Marco writes:

My name is Marco  and I live in Canada. Submitted is a photo of my 1998 Bianchi Reparto Corse, Mercatone Uno-Marco Pantani build. LIke yourself I am a huge fan of the Pirate and his legendary climbs and attacks. I was really excited and imprerssed when a friend of mine found your page and told me about it.

 I found the bike online from North Dakota equipped with Shimano Ultegra 9 speed group set and Mavic SUP wheels. I stripped the bicycle completely and the journey began in sourcing the most correct parts for the build that I could find which took me close to 4 years.

 Locally I was able to find  the Campy Record crank, record cable set, record chain and Vittoria tires which were a Marco Pantani edition. I found the ITM Super Italia Pro 260, Elite Titanium bottle cage, Time Mag red pedals and Coca-Cola Tour De France water bottle in the USA. The Campy Record 54/44 crank rings and 11/23 rear sprocket were found in Spain. The ITM Big One Stem, Record Titanium seat post, Selle Italia Pantani saddle and Record Titanium Brake/shifter levers came from Italy. Campy Shamal Titanium wheels from Holland. Campy Record Titanium derailleurs, headset, bottom bracket and brake calipers from the UK.....and lastly I found a set of Campagnolo Electron rims from Hungary. Still looking for hubs and spokes to complete the Electron wheels.....any suggestion???

My personal license plates "PIRATA 98" for my vehicle. For me, all well worth the money.


" Long live the Pirate....Marco Pantani"

Daniel's Pantani replica with his newly found PMP seatpost.
See Daniel's extensive personal collection

First, what do cyclists mean by "a build"? Most people buy bikes from dealers selling nationally-known brands and they buy these bikes complete, ready to go. There are
reasons to not  buy a bike that way, but cost is not one of them. It usually costs more to assemble a bike yourself from parts. There can be benefits but you take the responsibility of doing the job of product manager. That's the person at the big bike company who makes sure all the parts work together on a bike they are going to offer to the public.

If you get a pre-assembled ready-to-go bike, the bike company is responsible for it all to work together. But what if you want other parts than the ones it's offering? Maybe you are a weight weenie and want the lightest bike possible or you love that 1999 ice grey Shimano groupo. Maybe you are a vintage bike collector and you want parts from the same year your frame was made. Maybe you are trying to replicate the bike of a famous rider or one used on a famous ride. Maybe you just like to do it yourself and select each part for its peak performance.

My winter project was a 1998 Bianchi Mercatone Uno team bike. I have always liked the paint scheme on the bike and I was a Marco Pantani fan so this was a project I wanted to do. The first task was to obtain the frame. I watched Ebay for many years until one came along at a price I could afford, which was only a few hundred bucks.
1999 Bianchi Production replica of the 1998 Team Frame

You need to remember that when assembling a bike from the frame up, costs can add up fast, especially if the frame needs chrome re-done or needs to be repainted. This one was in beautiful shape and I thank the previous owner for taking such good care of it.

There is interest in the bike that Pantani rode in the 1998 Tour but there is also a lot of mis-information and disagreement on the internet. Like this article in CyclingNews. So I guess the first task is to determine exactly what is correct for this bike. The problem lies in the fact that Pantani's bike changed over the 1998 season and had different equipment on it at different times. That is from whence some of the disagreement comes. Also, Bianchi made a production Team Replica bike and a limited edition of 101 that were not exactly a replica of Pantani's race bike. The other team members did not have bikes exactly like Pantani's either. I decided to use the images, on the net, of stage 15 of the 1998 Tour de France as my reference for this project. Those pictures became the standard of what is correct.

The bike is commonly considered to have a Campagnolo 9-speed titanium group with Campagnolo Electron wheels, which I found to be mostly correct except for the Electron wheels. From images of Pantani riding stage 15, it can be clearly seen that he is riding standard Campagnolo Record wheels and I can't ID what rims he used. But they are standard box section aluminum rims. l believe the quick releases were made by PMP as was the seatpost. Most riders don't "mess" with the bikes they are supplied with by the team, but Pantani removed the guts of the left brifter for shifting and installed a classic downtube shifter on the left side. There is a lot of speculation as to why he did this--to make the bike lighter, to improve the shifting in the front? Who knows for sure.

 He used Time Mag EQ pedals painted red. The saddle was the embroidered Pantani Flite special edition, made by Selle Italia. He also used a red cyclo computer which I think was made by Echowell.
Notice the Campy Record hubs, red Time pedals, PMP QR and the missing left shift mechanism

In any build like this you have to temper your accuracy by your budget. Some parts may not be available anymore at any price. There are collectors who must have new-old-stock never-used parts for a build or original equipment with a pedigree. But most of us have to make do with what we can find or make some of the parts or hum-a-few-bars and fake it. My interest is in the look of the bike and the fun of trying to recreate it, not investment potential.

I found that there was a pair of aluminum quick releases available from a vendor in Taiwan that looked very close to the PMP units on Pantani's bike.

The seatpost I used is an American Classic titanium which also looks very much like the PMP.

Comparison of photos from the 1998 Tour and other seatposts.

Pantani's stem is an ITM painted to match the yellow-orange in the frame.

I have to use wing bars because of problems with my hands so I had to paint a stem to match. I was lucky to find a paint at the local hardware store which is very close to the original. I ordered decals for the stem from which are quite cost effective.

I found a red cyclo computer, a close match and the only red one I could find.

There are also decals missing from the production frame. The production bike did not use a Time fork and it used a different frame tubing so the decals for Time on the fork and Dedacciai on the seatstay are not on the production frame. Also Pantani's frame had on the top tube which Bianchi did not put on the production frame. I found the Time and Deda decals on Ebay UK and had DIY lettering make the url decal.

I could not find an image good enough, of the number on Pantani's bike so I made the rider number from an image I found of Sean Yates riding in the 1995 tour. I cutout the number and used it to create one for the 1998 Bianchi, digitally.

I had a lot of fun researching and working on the project this winter. Do I have a perfect replica of Pantani's 1998 Tour de France bike? No, but it is close enough for me.

I have started a whole new blog on Aluminum race bikes from 1995-2006 here:

I "borrowed" a number of images from the web, to illustrate this post,  that have been copied so many times that the original owner is lost to me. If any of these images are yours and you want me to remove it or to acknowledge it please let me know.


Gunnar Berg said...

This is a very cool bicycle. I don't know what else to say. I'm ah-h-h-h....speechless.

Antonio said...

Very nice, ¿ Which tyres did you mount?

biciak said...

Hi Antonio,

The only clincher or wired-on tires that I could find that looked like the orignals, that Pantani used, were made by Gran Compe. It is called an "Open Tubular" but it is a normal clincher.

Pantani's, of course, were real tubulars.

Pirate said...

You saddle is not good(1997)
Also the fork (Not a time)
I have make also a replica

Erik said...

Wonderful build, congrats.
I have one like it, but not as nice as yours.
For tires i used Vittorias, they seem the better choice.
The Jersey on pic1 is a '98 Giro d'Italia model. In the Tour de France of the same year the large 1 (Mercatone Uno) should be Bianchi's celeste green.
How did you install that downtube shifter, just drill a hole ? Takes the skill of the better mechanic I guess. Great Job that.

biciak said...

Hi Erik,

I noticed the subtle color changes in some of the Mercatone Uno jerseys in pictures but never quite figured out what the deal was - thanks!

The downtube has brifter guides so I changed one out for a downtube guide - uses the same braze-on.

I wanted the all yellow look of the original tires so I used the gran compe even tho they are not italian :(

Thanks for your comments!

Lulu said...

I have made the same in France

Lulu said...

The rim was Mavic with decals Campagnolo.
Your saddle is 1997 not 1998
The seatpost should be PMP graved Bianchi

Anonymous said...

Just bought another complete bianchi
(5th in the collection) Why? Because it carries the original ITM Big One stem, even your briljant replica doesn't have. It wil take some doing to transplant it to my Pantani look-a-like machine. The handlebar has to be (at least half) naked to be fitted through the stem. Later models, like yours open with two screws at the front, which makes this a lot easier. Think I will change to a downtube shifter as well, on the left side. If I can find one that looks the part, as yours does. Happy Hollidays from Belgium !

biciak said...

Daniel, Yes my saddle is not even a flite it is the TCS. Correct the seatpost should be PMP.

Anonymous, As shown in the original photo I do have the correct stem. In fact I have removed the stem and bars and returned the Big One and original bars to my build. Good Luck on your build! Yes the new ahead stems are easier to replace.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
biciak said...

Andrew, I accidentally removed your post and can't figure out how to restore it. Please repost it and send photo's when you get your build done!

Anonymous said...

Hello, great bike. But, the computer was definitely an Echowell Echo J12.