The Rise and Fall of Marco Pantani
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  Posted February 14th, 2012 by Zdenko  in Cycling | No comments yet.

Flashback

Source: Pro Cycling magazine

The Rise and Fall of Marco Pantani: Pantani crashes in the 1995 Milano – Torino one-day race
Three years before he won the Tpour de France, Marco Pantani’s career hovered on the brink when he crashed into a Jeep during Milano – Torino on October 18, 1995.

Marco Pantani (January 13, 1970 – February 14, 2004)

The 25 year-old was one of the three riders who ploughed into the vehicle on a descent – a potentially fatal accident which occurred when police mistakenly allowed the Jeep onto the course while some of the riders were still due to pass.

Pantani was regarded as arguably the most exiting young talent in cycling and also the most gifted climber seen in many years. He turned pro in August 1992 then shot into the time light two seasons later when he seized two stages in the Giro d’Italia in typical swashbuckling style and placed third in his first Tour de France.

The important months of 1995 were every bit as good, with the Italian romping to dramatic stage wins at Alpe d’Huez and Guzet-Neige in the Tour, then picking up a bronze medal at the World Road Race Championships in Columbia. Those performances ensured that the news of his crash on October 18 dominated the headlines. Multiple fractures put his career in serious doubt, landed the Italian in hospital and left his leg in an external brace, with rods screwed into his tibia in order to prevent the bone from shortening.

Equally serious was the fallout from the crash. When Pantani was admitted to hospital, his hematocrit was clocked at 60 per cent, while his hemoglobin was 20.8 g per 100 ml. The figures were much higher than could be considered normal and almost certain proof of EPO use. The Italian then suffered from a sudden and near-catastrophic bout of anemia, possibly related to withdrawal from the hormone.

A week after his hematocrit dropped to 15.9 per cent and he needed a blood transfusion to save his life. Pantani fought back, resuming competition in August 1996 and returning to top form when he took two stage wins in the 1997 Tour de France. Had the Milano – Torino crash been any more serious, Pantani could have lost his life even earlier than his tragically premature death in February 2004.

Eight Years After: Marco Pantani Remembered

It has been eight years since Marco Pantani’s passing on the 14th of February 2004. Marco Pantani died alone in Rimini, in a motel after three days spent in a small room without seeing anybody. Pantani was still a Pro rider. During the previous year, during the Giro, he was able to show great moments and I remember, all over the winter, many people wondering about Il Pirata’s plans for the 2004. Then it all ended.

Alessandro Federico takes a look back at the questions, the dismay following the news, and the loss of the flamboyant scalatore. It wouldn’t do a piece like this justice to include just a couple of pictures, so we included many, many pictures as a sort of photographic journey…in no particular order.

Jan Ullrich with Pantani

Some said they were sure of a new team for Marco: there were rumors around the Domina Vacanze, Cipollini’s team. Marco and Mario were friends. Looking nowadays to that event we can understand how strong was the message to all the cyclists. “Stay your place” – “Don’t touch the wires”. That’s one of the reason we have now great riders but small heroes. And this system, this suspicious feeling already affected all supporters dreams and fantasy. There’s a picture that shows Armstrong and Pantani in the top of Mont Ventoux. That was a battle. That was an epic and real duel. That was the beginning of the century. But someone else decided we couldn’t enjoy it. Pantani wasn’t invited any more to that competition. Why?

Are you really still looking for the answer? 

Marco Pantani (January 13, 1970 – February 14, 2004)

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