From the De Rosa website:
“Ugo De Rosa was born on the 27th of January 1934 in Milan, Italy. As a young boy he developed a passion for bicycle racing, a passion which remains with him to this day. It led him to take up the sport in which he advanced through several ranks at the amateur level. In technical school he completed a mechanical and engineering curriculum and became very interested the science of the bicycle itself. This would prove to be the area where De Rosa would make his mark on the cycling world.”
In the early fifties Ugo De Rosa opened his first shop and dedicated himself to the manufacture of racing bicycles. He understood what it took to build a true racing bicycle and his reputation began to spread among the amateur racers in Milan. By 1958 the word of De Rosa’s frames had reached the professional peleton. While attending a race at the Vigorelli velodrome in Milan De Rosa was approached by Raphael Geminiani, a famous cyclist of the day. He asked De Rosa to build him a bike for the upcoming Giro d’Italia. It was a pivotal moment. Making a champion’s bikes would certify his craftsmanship and launch him into the world of professional cycling.
The sixties saw De Rosa bikes become a fixture in the professional peleton. The powerful Faema squad was the first team to ride De Rosas to the forefront with great champions like Soler and Suarez of Spain. Along with Belgian Rik van Loy they won a majority of the races they entered. Other De Rosa teams of the decade included Tbac (1964) and Max Majer (1967). By 1969 De Rosa was approached by Gianni Motta, a great champion of that era who had admired the bicycles of the Max Majer team. Motta wanted to engage De Rosa as his frame builder and mechanic, De Rosa accepted and became the bicycle supplier to Motta’s powerful Sanson team as well. It was also during this period that one of the greatest stars of cycling was rising – Eddy Merckx. De Rosa built some frames for Merckx around this time, but it was not until 1973 that their now famous relationship was formalized.
That was when Eddy asked Ugo to become the official frame builder and mechanic for the Molteni team which he captained. The results were unprecedented as Merckx and his teammates won nearly all the major races including the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia, Milano-San Remo and the World Championship. This partnership remained in effect until Merckx’s retirement in 1978. In 1974 another great racer came to him in search of the frame that was the talk of the pro peleton. Francesco Moser wanted De Rosa bicycles for his Filotex team. De Rosa complied and the results were rewarding for both parties. The team was taken over by Sanson in 1976, and it added the powerful Belgian Roger DeVlaeminck to its roster while Moser went on to win the World Championship.
As the seventies came to a close Ugo De Rosa had gone from humble beginnings to being the frame builder of two World Champions. His sons Danilo, Doriano, and Cristiano were showing great interest in the family business. The timing could not have been better as the demand for De Rosa bicycles skyrocketed in the eighties. De Rosa entered new markets for the first time including the United States, Russia, Japan, Belgium, and Germany.
By the end of the eighties De Rosa had outgrown the small work shop adjacent to his home where all his frames had been made, and he moved to a larger space in Cusano Milanino and assigned his sons definite responsibilities. Danilo and Doriano learned well from their father and started to work beside him in the most critical phases of frame construction while Cristiano took over the commercial side of the business.
In the 1990’s the De Rosa’s would shift their focus to titanium, aluminum and carbon and for the moment that is where my interest ends. All in all, another incredible story of a master craftsman becoming a world renowned brand.
For more info, pictures and catalogs check out the following pages:
De Rosa Bicycles Blog
From Classic Rendezvous: