On a brisk December morning in Vigodarzere, a little village on the outskirts of Padova in north-eastern Italy, we enter the Penello Mario workshop. This is where the Giro d’Italia trophy has been made since 1999, when Fabrizio Galli won a competition held by the Italian Institute of Copper to design a new one.
“That entry was done on a computer,” recalls Luca Penello, Mario’s son, who runs the business. “But trying to actually make it at first was not easy, the costs were not particularly reasonable. After trying and trying, we succeeded.”
It takes a month to make the Trofeo Senza Fine (Endless Trophy). A copper bar is rounded, then shaped with a bending machine and given a first bit of polishing. Subsequently, it is heat-treated and twisted into that recognisable spiral shape. Then it’s cut to size, the base is added and the trophy is polished again. Lastly, the inscriptions of past winners are added with a laser and it’s sand-blasted.
“The hardest part of the process is shaping the trophy and inscribing the names. Once it’s set in that spiral, you have to be very careful with any refinement,” Luca says.
Torture device or cycling trophy in the works? “It does look a bit like one,” he agrees. “We need all these metal pegs to support the copper and make that distinctive form.”
Here’s a few they made earlier. When completed, the Trofeo Senza Fine stands 54 centimetres high and tips the scales at 9.5 kilograms. The company also creates the trophies of Milan-Sanremo, Milan-Torino, Strade Bianche and the Tirreno-Adriatico trident.
Luca’s labour doesn’t stop when this 18-carat gold-plated beauty leaves his atelier. Since the 2017 Giro, Penello has been present at the race finish to personally engrave the winner’s name onto the trophy with a manual pantograph. A keen Sunday cyclist himself, who tots up 4,000 kilometres every year, this work is a particular joy for Penello: “It’s a huge honour for me to make a trophy like this that is so important, so famous, so rich with history.”