Pinella cut my chain


Giovanni Zandonà approached him at the Castelfranco circuit. “We are preparing a great team for next year. You are young and fast. Would you like to race for us?”. Luciano did not think twice about it. He liked Zandonà not just because he was an excellent sporting director and former hopeful cyclist, but also because he had started a successful business in the field of farming machinery, by becoming a Stayer dealer. Alfredo and Fiorenzo had spoken highly about Wilier Triestina. He soon signed a two-year contract. His brother Sergio, a fast all-rounder, five years younger than him, was also to wear the glorious jersey with him. And this is how Luciano Maggini started his adventure. This Bassano-trained Tuscan performer was a star among amateurs. He generated an immediate positive impact and Dal Molin, who received him together with Mr. Tonon in the factory in via Colomba, gave him a warm welcome. During the winter he trained hard and one morning, together with Martini, Bresci and his brother, he rode from the suburbs of Florence to Bassano, three hundred kilometres later, where Zandonà, now close to the end of his career as sporting director, had organised a joint rally. That was where he met new mates, being on good terms with everyone. Magni and Giordano Cottur, Wilier’s premium riders, relied on the valuable Tuscan cyclist with a soft ride and a speedy sprint. They placed their trust in him and were not disappointed. Maggini would make up for the lack of strength with his mind, and seized many prestigious opportunities.

He won the Giro del Veneto for the first time by sprinting to the Pian delle Fugazze and then throwing himself headlong towards the plain before rising on his pedals in view of the last hurdle of the harsh Lapio ascent. His rounded and elegant racing style took him straight to the national team.
That year (1948) the rainbow race would be run on the Dutch circuit of Valkenburg and forecasts were split between Bartali and Coppi. The eve was very tense. “The technical commissioner Lugari had chosen eight racers: among these he would choose two reserves. In addition to the two champions, there was Martini, Ricci, Ortelli, Pasquini, Magni and myself. Coppi wanted me to race at his side. Instead, two days before the race Lugari called me aside, after inspecting the circuit, and told me that I would assist Bartali. Magni and Martini were confined to the reserves. I obliged.” The air was heavy on the eve of the race. That year Coppi and Bartali could not stand each other and when racing their rivalry exploded. They raced against each other, checking out each others’ movements, with a tight marking, ignoring the adversaries. In such conditions it was impossible that one of the two could win the world championship. “At the beginning I was charged and confident and reached the first line. As the starter I lowered the flag, I pedalled vigorously twice. The third time the chain of my Wilier broke. I was on foot while the group broke away. I had to change bike and suffer since the bike Cimurri passed me did not suit my characteristics. Bad luck, but I did not give up. While Coppi and Bartali, who had not stopped battling each other for a minute, fell back, galvanising the world press, I reached the lead positions again. We were almost at the finish line when, slowly, the front tyre started to sag. It was impossible to change the palmer. I swore and went under the banner with a burst tyre: fourth place at 6’40”. Alberic Schotte won, beating the Frenchman Lazaridès in a sprint.”


That evening at the hotel, while tempers were still high, Luciano Maggini checked the chain suddenly left him behind and realised that it had been sawn. Who had sabotaged it? This question was never answered.
“Twenty five years later Bartali called me. There is a meeting of the golden days in Rome. Come along – he said – , lots of friends will be there. I agreed. When the dinner was almost over, I went to Gino and quietly asked him: “So many years have passed, but I have always had a nagging question: do you know who cut the chain of my bike at Valkenburg?” He looked at me with wide and unbelieving eyes, as if I was joking. When he understood that I had never solved that issue, he whispered: Pinella “golden pliers”, Coppi’s mechanic ”. Wow – I said – are you sure? Yes he said. I swear, I did not understand the reason for that act, probably due to the fact that Lugari had put me next to Gino rather than Fausto. With the storm brewing between the two, even the mechanic tried to limit Bartali by damaging me in a way. I am sure Fausto knew nothing about what Pinella did.

He was a good guy and sometimes helped me win… On this point, once he asked me to let him sprint to the lead. We were in Genoa, during a track meeting. Bruna Ciampolini, who had just become his wife, was in the gallery and Fausto wanted to make a good impression. ‘I’ll give you fifteen thousand liras if you let me win’ he proposed. I took it, also because in those days it was a good amount, but I did everything possible to make him work for it. It was hard work and at the end he winged it, but that was not because I gave up. At the end of the awards, as it was time to settle the debt, he said to me: you rogue, you wanted to rip me off, didn’t you? I promised him it was not true…”. “It was difficult to get ahead of Coppi and Bartali at that time. I managed it more than once and each time I got my wheel in front I was so happy. I was fortunate to race together with greatest cycling champions: I learnt so much from them. Also at Wilier I had amazing athletic team mates: Magni, Cottur, Martini and the friendly Carollo who we found by surprise in Palermo, at the start of the 1949 Giro. He worked hard to conquer the black jersey!”

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11th June 2013