Paolo Bettini X 3T: A Day with a Cycling Legend

The list of affinities between Paolo Bettini and 3T is long, ranging from their Italian roots to the shared pursuit of top-notch quality and performance without fear of taking risks - to be the first. However, speaking about it theoretically might be a tad dull, so let's shift from explanations to some storytelling.

Paolo arrives at 3T before mid-morning, and this means he had to set out from his native Tuscany before dawn. He has been forced to a very early alarm because we didn’t just invite him to pick up a bike and exchange a few handshakes; despite the limited daylight hours in late January, we suggested a ride together instead, to explore the everyday life of 3T in the province of Bergamo, where the company and its people reside.

Upon arrival, we find Paolo already standing at the entrance, perusing the timeline that narrates 3T’s story from its inception: a story adorned with successes such as Carlos Sastre’s Tour victory, Ryder Hesjedal’s Giro triumph, and Moser’s Hour Record. Champions abound on that wall, and seeing them, Paolo would indeed feel at home, we believe.

Skipping pleasantries, we swiftly guide Paolo to the floor that would undoubtedly pique his interest the most: the second one, home to the factory.

Enrique, the Head of Production, has set aside the morning to give Paolo a tailored made tour. No one else could better respond to the barrage of questions Paolo fires off! Enrique doesn’t conceal his delight at Paolo’s keen interest. He explains that, of the many visitors to the factory over the years, few have shown an understanding and enthusiasm for what we do here comparable to Paolo’s.

Already behind schedule, we descend to the lower floor to finally present Paolo with his first 3T bike. Naturally, it’s a Racemax Italia, crafted in the same factory he just toured. It’s green—something we had forewarned him about, and he came prepared with a matching Prologo saddle and bar tape. With Simone ready for final adjustments, they chat briefly about the choice between tone-on-tone or the classic black, but in the end, green saddle and tape triumph. It’s going to be an all-green bike.

The decision to welcome Paolo, a road cycling legend, with an allroad bike may seem unusual, but his competitive years are behind him. Paolo’s new way of experiencing cycling revolves more around the joy of navigating the winding Tuscan roads without the frenzy of competition. In the geothermal area, Paolo also organizes a gravel event called GeoGravel, set for its second edition on June 2nd. But we’ll have more on that later.

Before changing into cycling gear, there’s time for a photo with fans in front of the 3T logo. These aren’t just any people but Luca, Alberto, Giampiero, and Gianluca: the ones who strongly advocated for Paolo to ride our bike and worked to make this day happen.

Once in the saddle, Paolo’s company is once again Enrique. Maybe they still needed to finish saying all they needed to during the factory visit… They pedal towards Bergamo Alta, with Miriam trailing in a car, attempting to capture the early moments of Paolo’s ride on a Racemax. The low January sun doesn’t help; despite noon, the light struggles to pierce the buildings, casting shadows over most of the route to Bergamo Alta.

Finally, in the expansive “Piazza Vecchia”, direct sunlight bathes the area – an opportunity to warm up a bit. We’re close to the ramps of Via della Boccola, the climb that has often proven decisive in crowning the winner of the Giro di Lombardia. Perhaps for a moment, Paolo contemplates tackling it full throttle and descending along the Venetian Walls as in the old days – a great way to thoroughly test the frame’s responsiveness.

But then he checks the time: it’s almost 2 PM, and returning to 3T for a bite is better. There will be plenty more opportunities to push the pedals hard with the new bike. And many more adventures to come!