The Italian Connection: Inside Giordana

By Zap

If ever there was a man who could claim that he has stood, and worked, among kings, it would be Pier Giorgio Andretta. Like so many other Italian bike industry icons, Giorgio started out his career as a racer before deciding to pursue the business end of the sport. And it’s safe to say that he’s been in the bike industry for a while now. In fact, it was back in 1971 when as an Italian ex-pat living in Canada, he decided to open an import business – Gita Sporting Goods –  to bring to America the good stuff from Italy that many cycling fans talked about, but had little access to. At the same time he also started producing Italian made cycling clothing. Fast forward to 2017 and not much has changed.
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Gita Sporting Goods was the name of the company that Giorgio started and over the decades he has been a key player in the Italianization of the American cycling scene. The 65 year old Italian played a crucial role being the early conduit for names like Grandis (1971), Colnago (1981), Sidi (1972), DeRosa (1976), Duegi, Diadora, Pegoretti (1989) and of course, the brand that’s been a Gita mainstay for 43 years, Pinarello.
In 1987 Giorgio broke ground on the company headquarters located just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, and in the years since has maintained a steady flow of top tier brands from across Europe. Although the Giordana line of clothing have always been  made Italy, just last year he opened his own factory in Montecchio,Maggiore Italy which is just a few miles down the road from Campagnolo in Vicenza.
I sat down with Giorgio during Press Camp in a room surrounded by a dozen new Pinarellos plus racks of Giordana clothing (the popular brand he named after his daughter who now helps run the company).
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There was a time in the late 80’s when Giorgio decided to import road and mountain bikes of his own.
RBA: What is about the Italian cycling industry that makes it so distinct?
Giorgio: I would of course say the passion for the sport we have, but just look back in history and Italy has always played a vital role in the sport. The French too have been important, but not as much. The legacy of the Italian artisan is deep within the sport and even today, whether its shoes in Asolo, saddles in Bassano and frames in the Venoto region (Verona to Treviso) you can still find the historical pockets of the country that have made themselves famous for producing certain products.
RBA: Much like Mr. Campagnolo, you have always maintained production in Italy with Giordana clothing when it could easily be made for less money in Asia. Why?
Giorgio: Last year we opened our very own factory and before doing so I visited other factories in Eastern Europe, Asia, and yes, I could get things made cheaper, but that’s not what’s important for us. It Italy especially, you have people who take such pride in what they are doing and cycling clothing is very specific that if you are manufacturing just to be inexpensive, fashionable or to produce as much as possible, the important details get lost.  The goal is to always build something better than before, and even though two jerseys may look the same, they don’t necessarily perform the same.
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Fausto Pinarello (c) explains what makes his namesake frames so special along with Giorgio at the Pinarello factory.

RBA: I’ve always found Fausto Pinarello to be a pretty unique guy. What is it about him that makes him Fausto?
Giorgio: He really is an amazing guy, but as good as he is about creating some of the best designs, they would never come to market if it wasn’t for (Pinarello sales manager) Luciano Fuzarpoli, he’s the one who makes it all happen. There was a time when we used to wonder about who would lead the company when his dad (and company founder Giovanni) was no longer in charge. Fausto got his start working at the company in the paint department and he wasn’t always so passionate about cycling. But eventually that changed and his vision has since played a large role in what we do.
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Giorgio had some sweet old, legacy jerseys to show-off next to his newest pieces that are made at the year-old factory that he just built in Italy.
RBA: What have some of the biggest changes in clothing been over the years?
Giorgio: I would say there have been three major moments; the move from wool to synthetic, when we were to start sublimating fabric and now with the advances in the materials themselves.  Like the material we get from Event xxx with the water proofing membranes, we can get clothing made for a specific type of riding, whether it’s wet weather, cold, or lightweight climbing in the heat. There are fabric technology being used now that we never would’ve dreamed of when we got started.
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The Monsoon rain jacket was chock full of features for a lightweight shell highlighted by eVent’s wind/water proof membrane, a lined collar, the grey or flouro green color and it packs into itself for easy stowing
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Available in both men’s and women’s styles (shown), the Sosta winter jacket had some fetching good looks to it. The Sostra uses the breathable DWR treatments for wind proof/water resistant riding and has a Merino wool interior. Classy and protective.
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Gita’s marketing director, Sandy Nicholls, has been a Gita employee since 1979…he’s basically seen it all.

 

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The Giordana logo has been seen on hundreds of top team and race jerseys for almost four decades.
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Giorgio maintains a small museum of old bikes and accessories that Gita has imported over the years.
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The largest part of Gita’s 40,000 sq. ft headquarters (outside of Charlotte, North Carolina) is taken up with a massive warehouse that houses all the incoming bikes and products.
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In addition to the top Italian brands they imported, for a time Gita was also the place where U.S. dealers could source Eddy Merckx frames as well.

 

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Yes, there was even a time when the Giordana logo adorned the yellow jersey for the Tour de France (1995). This one was autographed by former TdF winner, Stephen Roche.
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Talk about rare, the combination of a Campagnolo Euclid Off-Road gruppo mounted on a Pinarello mountain bike speaks volumes to an earlier day in the bike industry.

 

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Gita is the sole U.S. importer for the always stunning steel bikes built by Dario Pegoretti.

 

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Giorgio and Dario Pegoretti have been working together since the mid-70’s when Dario was an apprentice frame builder for his father-in-law who was a contract frame builder for other brands. When Giorgio and Dario get together there is never any shortage of joking.

 

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For more info: Gita Bike and Giordana Cycling

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