When the ‘Maglia Nera’ was almost as popular as the leader’s pink jersey

Giovanni-Pinarello the last winner of the Black Jersey
Giovanni-Pinarello the last winner of the Black Jersey

The Giro d’Italia is all about colour.

The event is a spectacular kaleidoscopic sight with the dominant colour pink.

The Maglia Rosa is the leader’s jersey

White is for the young rider category.

The Azure blue for the King of the Mountains.

Red is for the points classification winner which is usually the top sprinter.

These are the major winners within the Giro.

However, for a few years there was a black jersey which was first introduced in the Giro in 1946 and awarded to the cyclist who was last in the general classification.

However, and not unsurprisingly, riders took advantage of the chance of collecting the Maglia Nera, and the few bob that went along with it.

However, because it became a sort of a cult, organisers called a halt to it in 1951.

The last person to win the Maglia Nera was a certain Giovanni Pinarello, now the classiest of all Italian bike builders. Pinarallo, who was an excellent cyclist in his own right, was not ashamed to tell the many stories of the strategies performed in order to wear black.

Cyclists were known to purposely deflate their tyres, hide in barns, conjure up a mechanical, or some other devious mishap that enabling them to the arrive last in general classification.

When Pinarallo ended up in black in 1951 he wore the jersey into Milan, usually the stage finish of the Giro.

It was a moment of celebration as he rode a lap of honour around the Vigorelli Velodrome along with the winners.

The jersey tag remained with Pinarallo and the famous former Giro winner Gino Bartali penned a dedication which is still visible today in bike maker’s store ... “The Black Jersey of cycling, but the Pink Jersey of life”.

Pinarallo was to ride his last Giro d’Italia in 1952, but in a last-minute switch, he was asked to give up his place to a young rider called Pasqualino Fornara who was fired from the great Fausto Coppi’s Bianchi team.

The fact that his team offered £100,000 pounds did help ease the pain.

That was big bucks in those days, and PInerallo knowing his professional cycling days were virtually over, plied the money into a little bike workshop in Treviso. From there the famous hand-made bikes have grown into a massive business.

Today, the Treviso factory turns out some of the best bikes in the world, like the Sky team’s Pinarallo Dogma 65.1 which will be seen during the Giro d’Italia.

Want one?

At £10,000-plus fully kitted out with all the bells and whistles!