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Othon Ochsner & the Campagnolo Prototype

Words by Brett Horton with images from Horton Collection

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I love when I can dredge up unusual bits of the cycling world. When I was a kid in the 1970s and early ’80s, Campagnolo still ruled the world of racing components. While fans of certain French cycling products may beg to differ, my idea of the perfect bike was one equipped front to back with either Nuovo Record or Super Record. Campagnolo’s factory in Vicenza, Italy, was a world away. In my mind, it had to be one of the most magical places on earth.

Beyond components, I always kept out an eye for anything with the Campy logo: boxes, shipping crates, signs, posters, pins, you name it. As the years clicked by, I started to collect cycling memorabilia in earnest, and I have always maintained a soft spot for Campagnolo.

A decade or so ago, I had the privilege to get to know Othon Ochsner on a personal basis. Othon owned the import company that bore his name. Based in Illinois, he brought in several lines including Campagnolo. As a collector of many things, Othon had an incredible eye for cycling items. This came in handy because, combined with industry access, he was able to get his hands on things that were largely “unobtainium.”

After a fair amount of contact on the phone, Othon invited me to spend a few days visiting with him and take a closer look at his collection. What a treat! Othon was a man after my own heart. He loved good food, great wine and cycling. We got along great. Over the years, we did a number of deals together and somehow Othon got me to part with items in my collection I would have otherwise thought I would own for my lifetime.

Sadly, Othon Ochsner passed three years ago at age 83. One year later, a large chunk of his estate was sold at auction. I heard about the auction two days before it was set to occur. Within four hours I was on a flight to Chicago.

I spent the entirety of the next day in Illinois previewing the near endless items up for sale. And then I found it: the little black bottom bracket. This was no ordinary Campagnolo bottom bracket. This was a quintessential example of Othon’s ability to find the odd and wonderful. It was a Campagnolo prototype. Othon loved prototypes and so do I. For me, this one was special and of all the things I bought at the auction this was the most personal. The bottom bracket now proudly resides on a shelf in my office. Every time my eye catches it, I smile as I am reminded of my friend Othon.

From issue 95. Buy it here.