Sunday, March 30, 2008

Mario Confente, Part III

Sometimes it's a small world. Since-he-read-my-blog, new found Italian cycling friend from Verona, Alessandro, was curious as well about the Mario Confente story. He in turn spoke to one of his cycling friends, Francesco, and incredibly, Francesco, knew Confente. Not only that, Francesco's wife, Ilia, grew up next door to Mario and his sisters in Montorio. Through Francesco and Ilia arrangements were made to meet Gianna Confente on Thursday, March 27, 2008. The four of us went to Gianna's home where we were very warmly received.

I brought along most of the Confente materials that are available on the web, and photographs from the CR list ( Gianna was very grateful, and was more than gracious in sharing the information she had about her brother. She had many old newspaper articles about Mario's racing career and frame building, and many, many photographs (some recently received). There was a tremendous amount of information in the albums, too much to digest in a relatively short time.

I explained carefully, and with the help of Alessandro speaking in Italian, the esteem in which Mario's work is held. I believe that Gianna, although having an understanding of it before, now has a much better appreciation of how highly Mario's work is regarded. Mario Confente's story is far less, very far less, known within Montorio and Verona (they are adjacent) than it is in the United States. In fact, neither Francesco or Ilia were aware, until this evening, of the details of Mario's work in California.

As you can imagine, there were times during the course of the evening, that Gianna was quite moved by the discussion. It wouldn't have been appropriate for me to act like an investigative reporter.

Over wine, followed by torta and coffee, the following is what I learned that would be of interest:

-the original family home and frame building workspace was demolished in the 1970s.

-the second, and larger workshop in Montorio was located at 19, via Olive. The apartment above the Confente workshop is still there but the workshop area has been converted in garages. Gianna owns Mario's workbench from this shop (her husband and son have used it through the years so things have been added, etc).

-Mario's cycling accident resulted in a hematoma, which later caused a more serious medical condition requiring surgery. At that point in his life all of his sister's were married and it was because of his accident, plus the need of greater income that his father suggested that he focus full time on frame building. Gianna said that despite this Mario did continue racing for awhile. Gianna also displayed a letter of invitation from the Italian Olympic Committee inviting Mario to tryouts for the national team.

-Gianna knew nothing of Mario having ever made crosses for the Vatican. However, he did do repair work for the local parish priest in the church in Montorio; if he ever made any crosses it would have been for the parish priest.

There were many interesting photographs and old newspaper clippings that we will try to have scanned in the future. In the mean time these photographs of the photographs will have to suffice:

-with Eddy Merckx (photograph at the start of the blog)

-riding the first bike he built according to Gianna, photograph is dated May '66

-race photo and wearing Bencini team jersey

-The "Custom Bikes by Confente" workplace

-Mario working at MASI

Late into the evening, Gianna brought this out; it was very moving. It was suggested she save it as a family heirloom. The photograph to her right is the last one she received from Mario.
Three hours passed very quickly. It was a beautiful evening that will be long remembered. Sincere thanks to Gianna Confente, Alessandro (standing), Francesco and Ilia for making it possible.


  1. extremely beautiful story atmo -

  2. Angel, well done. Some interesting insight into an interesting frame builder.-Mikey Schmidt

  3. Angel, great story. You had an opportunity you can treasure forever.
    Mikey Schmidt

  4. Wonderful and touching story, Angel. Nicely done!

    Bob Hovey

  5. Thank you for sharing this. A beautiful story and some wonderful photos!

  6. Angel - thanks for sharing this - really fantastic. I'm sure Gianna's memory of her brother is even more precious after your visit. Well done.

    Mark Petry
    Bainbridge Island, WA

  7. great story about one of my heroes...thanks for sharing it.