Long-term sponsor of Mapei cycling team Giorgio Squinzi dies, aged 76

The team is one of the best-remembered in cycling history

(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

The man behind Mapei, one of cycling's most remembered teams, has died after battling a serious illness.

Giorgio Squinzi was born in on October 18, 1943 and died on Wednesday (October 3), leaving behind wife Adriana and children Marco and Veronica. He died in the Milan hospital where he had been for two weeks.

In cycling, he is best known for sponsorship of Italian super team Mapei with his chemicals and flooring company, from 1993 to 2002. They ruled cycling with greats like Johan Museeuw, Franco Ballerini and Paolo Bettini, and launched the careers of Fabian Cancellara and Filippo Pozzato. In his ranks, also, Giuseppe Saronni, Patrick Lefevere and Luca Guercilena began their management careers.

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"Condolence to the family Squinzi, the great man," Lefevere, now the boss at Deceuninck - Quick-Step, said. "He loved his company Mapei, and sport. Brought cycling to a higher level. Thanks to him I became the general manager."

The team won nearly everything with star riders. Óscar Freire would collect world titles and Frank Vandenbroucke enjoyed his golden era. Every year after 1993, it sat on the top of the UCI world rankings at the end of the season.

Squinzi reportedly budgeted €12 million a year to his team, enough at the time to buy any star he saw. Rival teams argued that the budget was too much, a similar situation to those who criticise Team Ineos's big account.

In the famous Mapei cubes, Squinzi's riders won 12 Monuments – four of the five, only missing Milan-San Remo – and the overall in the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España. Museeuw led one of the team's most iconic victory when he won a Mapei one-two-three in the 1996 Paris-Roubaix.

Squinzi loved cycling, a passion gained from his father Rodolfo. He poured his sponsorship money into the team and created a training centre run by the late Aldo Sassi. Still in these years, he sponsored the UCI World Championships and attended the races to see how far his troops had gone.

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And some of those troops are now managing as sports directors, like Dario Cioni with Ineos and Charly Wegelius with EF Education First. They add to the impact that Mapei had in cycling.

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And in football, he made an impact too. He helped Sassuolo Calcio grow from a provisional team to a Series A team. The team said on Instagram "It's a sad day in football and for all Italian sport."

A doping scandal with Italian Stefano Garzelli, however, made Squinzi eventually pull the plug on the cycling team in 2002. He remained linked to cycling and at times, spoke of starting another team. It never happened, but thanks to his investment at the time, the Squinzi touch remains.

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Gregor Brown

Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.