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Despite carbon having been on the scene for more than a decade in 1998 when Marco Pantani became the last rider to win both the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France, he chose to ride alloy. His Bianchi MegaPro XL was made with Dedacciai thin-wall alloy tubing, which was then given a shot-pin surface treatment to toughen the super-thin tube walls. The bike’s name, MegaPro XL, comes from the name of the down-tube design. Created in Bianchi’s legendary Reparto Corse [“race department”], the alloy down tube was round at the head tube, widened in the middle and then became elliptical at the bottom bracket.
The MegaPro XL represented the state of the art in alloy at the turn of the millennium. Pantani’s frame weighed just 2.2 pounds (1,000 grams), just 220 grams more than the ultralight carbon Specialissima. There were two versions of the Mega Pro, an L, and the top of the range XL that Pantani and his Mercatone Uno teammates rode.
There is a reason Pantani shied away from carbon. The mercurial Italian was fanatic about geometry. He drove Bianchi’s Reparto Corse to distraction with his demands. Pantani wanted different geometries depending on the individual stage profiles and it has been reported that in 1998 he asked for almost 30 different frame geometries during the season—and the Reparto Corse obliged.
After Pantani’s magical ’98 campaign, Bianchi offered 101 MegaPro XL Pantani limited-edition builds—101 was his race number in the 1998 Giro. It debuted for around $4,000, a lot of money for a bike 20 years ago, with the frame alone being $1,500. It came with a signed certificate and a build spec’d by Pantani himself: Campagnolo Record 9-speed, Time carbon fork, ITM alloy stem, Campagnolo Record Electron wheels, Time pedals, Bianchi Ti seat post, Selle Italia Flite Pantani edition saddle, Vittoria CX TT tires.