Over the years more than a few professional cyclists have ridden Panasonic bicycles. Panasonic DID have a professional cycling team for a while so that would naturally account for their bicycles being ridden by pro cyclists.
In early December of 2012 I spotted a rather obscure text-only ad on a southern California Craigslist offering a Panasonic Team bike for sale. I had suspected it was another 1985 Panasonic Team since I see a fair number of them offered for sale around the country. I asked the seller for photos in order to see what he had on his hands and was more than a little shocked at what I got in response. The bike was a Team Custom PICS frame with full Dura Ace. Most unexpected!
As for the name on the top tube, when I bought the bike I though it might have been possible that this bike was once owned by the famous French rider, Phillepe Lauraire who rode professionally from 1983 until the early 90’s. I had remembered his name from my childhood and for some reason associated him with a more famous rider by the name of Stephen Roche who happened to win the 1987 Tour de France. Lauraire was a domestique for Roche on Team Fagor and rode in the Tour three times. Certainly a more impressive cycling career than my own! (continued below photos)
Anyhow, I tried for many months to track down Mr. Lauraire in order to confirm or deny the origins of this bike without any luck. I even got in touch with Stephen Roche in hopes that he might have some idea where to find Mr. Lauraire… sadly he did not. Then, in late 2013, Mr. Lauraire’s niece contacted me via Twitter having seen my posts about her uncle. She kindly put me in touch with him and on February 24th, 2014 I received a message from Philippe saying “OK it’s my old bike from USA!” He rode in the U.S. for a team based in southern California called I.M.E. (Independent Medical Examination) in the late 80’s and this was a bike he used while on that team.