Once and Liberty Seguros team bikes on eBay: Manolo Saiz’s clearance sale?

47a2db26b3127cce98548aecb46d00000035100AZM2LZq1cuWig images from Barreda Museum’s shutterfly

Byron sent me this link, which seems as if Manolo Saiz, the former team manager of ONCE, Liberty Seguros, and Astana professional cycling teams, is selling off his personal collection of bikes. I don’t know if it’s legit or not, but I don’t really care since I don’t have $50K to advance the bid nor do I have room for 57 bicycles in my studio loft. But the array of bicycles listed is just amazing, almost 2 decades of cycling exotica. Sure, Saiz might be a pariah now, since the Operacion Puerto, but the advances he brought in other aspects of cycling are frequently forgotten.

47a2db26b3127cce98548afcb47d00000035100AZM2LZq1cuWig Giant for hill climb TT. 650C wheels

Though one of the few managers at that level who was never a professional rider, Saiz introduced a higher order of organization and professionalism to the sport. Perhaps one might even say that Greg Lemond broke riders out of the old world mould while Saiz led teams from a organizational standpoint. And like Lemond, Saiz was never shy about pursuing technical innovations. What were the first large diameter aluminium, American-made bikes in the European peloton? If you said Cannondale, you’re wrong. Washington state’s Klein made a small run of bikes for ONCE in the early nineties, though I don’t remember if they were actually used in the Grand Tours instead of the team’s standard LOOK frames. If the Klein bikes are but the answer to an esoteric trivia question, ONCE’s switch from LOOK to Taiwan’s Giant frames marked the beginning of a new era, as Asian builders (and to a lesser extent American) would carve an ever increasing slice out of the prestigious pro level bike market.

The collection’s time trial bikes tell a story of evolving philosophies of speed. Perhaps because ONCE was first and foremost a stage-race team, particular attention is paid to both flat land and hill climb machines. Back before the UCI required bikes to have the same size wheels front and back, teams often used bikes with 650C front wheels for time trials, but ONCE also had bikes with 24” front wheels, 650C front/rear, and 24”/650C combinations. There are several hill climb TT bikes with 650C front/rear; the idea was to exploit the low inertia of the smaller rim and to shorten the chain stays as much as possible.

Other than team bikes, there are a few curiosities like a bike with a Nike swoosh for a top tube.

47a2db26b3127cce98548a0cb48d00000035100AZM2LZq1cuWig Klein. Note curved seat tube to allow shorter chainstays.

47a2db26b3127cce98548a0f35be00000035100AZM2LZq1cuWig LOOK Cycles. Team Once raced on yellow bikes and kits except during the TdF, when they wore pink (and later black).