The Pope is selling his Pinarello

Egan Bernal giveth, the auctioneers taketh away.

Iain Treloar
by Iain Treloar 19.03.2024 Photography by
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Cast your mind back to 2021: a time where Egan Bernal had just won the Giro d’Italia in stunning fashion, half a year before his career and life hung in the balance after a brutal collision with a bus. His second Grand Tour victory was a momentous victory for the young Colombian, but that June something even more significant would happen: Bernal had an audience with Pope Francis, describing the experience as “the most beautiful I’ve had in my life.”

Because it’s only polite to come with a gift, Bernal (and Pinarello) prepared a couple of special presents for the Pontiff. In pictures from the meeting, a nervous Bernal smiles widely, standing next to his partner, Maria Fernanda Mota. “”This was a thousand times more stressful [than a Grand Tour],” Bernal – a practising Roman Catholic – later said. “I didn’t know what to say to him. I had some words prepared, but I was very nervous, although once we started talking, it became easier.”

Left: Egan Bernal and the Pope look at a signed Maglia Rosa. Right: The Pope raises one hand in an apparent blessing, as Egan Bernal and his partner smile.

Bernal left that meeting with a blessing; Pope Francis left with a custom-painted Pinarello Dogma F12. Now, three years later, a private seller is flipping it – presumably but not definitively on behalf of the Pope – on the auction site Catawiki, which describes itself as “the leading online marketplace for special objects that fulfil people’s passions.” Also up for sale, from the same seller – someone called Pasquale Carulli, who is either a buff dude on Instagram or leaves little trace online –  is a signed Maglia Rosa.  

The Dogma F12, for any aspiring bidders, is in Argentine colours to represent Pope Francis’ nationality. On the top tube is his Papal seal, along with his birth name (Jorge Mario). A hastily-added decal of an Argentine sun is on the outer legs of the fork, outside the clear-coat. Bidding is currently below reserve at €7,000, while a Catawiki expert – no idea how she got this gig, but it’s the 10-time Romanian national champ Ana Maria Covrig – has estimated the bike’s value at €25,000-€30,000. Previous bike sales through Catawiki include Jonas Vingegaard’s 2022 Tour-winning Cervelo R5 (€20,000) and Thibaut Pinot’s final Tour de France bike (€12,600). 

So does thirty grand strike us as optimistic for the Papal Pinarello, seeing as we’re dealing with a Shimano Ultegra mechanical groupset and rim brakes? Perhaps. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and given the Pope’s age (87) and the bike’s apparently unridden condition, maybe it’s not totally out of the question for devotees of Catholicism, Egan Bernal, or both.

What is fascinating about the auction is the sub-Facebook Marketplace quality of the photography accompanying the listing.

The Papal Pinarello, in light blue and white with custom details, sits on a crumpled white sheet against some furniture in the corner of a room somewhere.

I choose to imagine the octogenarian Pope battling with the framing of the shots – pulling out a pristine white sheet (ironed, of course), and draping it over the back of a dresser in his quarters in the Holy See. He has a lot on his mind, what with being the head of the worldwide Catholic Church, and he swipes away a couple of irritating Whatsapp messages as he trains the iPhone lens on the top tube.

He is the Pope, so he does not know the cardinal rules of bicycle photography – where to position the cranks and the valve stems – and the Dogma is diabolically cross-chained. If I were to hazard a guess based on the pictures, the tyres are probably flat; over the past years, a fine layer of dust has settled gently on the brake calipers (not even disc – outrageous!). Those little see-through bits of plastic are still attached to the silver cover at the top of the shifter, as if to drum home the point that this is not a bike that has been ridden.

Left: a view of the top tube of the bike, with a papal seal and the words 'Francesco' above an Argentine sun and the words 'Jorge Mario'. Right: the handlebars of the bike.

With a groan, Pope Francis rises from his photographer’s pose, lifts the front wheel and deposits one side of the bars on top of the papal dresser to get one final shot at an angle that no prospective bike-buyer has ever wanted to see, dislodging one bar plug in the process.

The bike is raised up on one wheel, its handlebars clumsily resting on a piece of furniture draped in a white sheet.

Effortfully, he Airdrops the photos to Pasquale, whoever he is, and exits the room in an enigmatic swirl of incense.

The bike lies in wait for its next owner in a beautifully tiled back-room somewhere, the perfect visual representation of a young Colombian’s devotion and the many, many gifts a Pontiff receives.

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