Cycling star dies 20 years ago: not even cocaine destroys Pantani’s legend

Cycling star dies 20 years ago
Not even cocaine destroys Pantani’s legend

Without a helmet, with a bandana on his head: It is a different time in which Marco Pantani becomes a cycling icon. The Italian ended his life 20 years ago. The memories last – and not even cocaine and doping destroy them.

In Cesenatico everything is ready for the big commemorations. The Piazza Marconi on the Adriatic beach, on which there is a statue in honor of the city’s most famous son, will be renamed Piazza Marco Pantani by the municipality on Wednesday. Fans will flock to the cemetery where the winner of the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France rests. Others visit the “Spazio Pantani” museum, which houses many memorabilia, including the legendary pirate bandana scarves.

February 14th marks the 20th anniversary of the tragic death of Marco Pantani, the Italian cycling icon, the multifaceted, dazzling and fragile personality whose life was far too short. He is the last great Italian cycling hero, he aroused national enthusiasm like no one has since.

There was great sadness when Pantani was found dead in a room at the Le Rose hotel in Rimini. An overdose of cocaine, the autopsy revealed, ended his life after just 34 years. It was the devastating end of a deep fall.

Pantani’s death revealed the extent of a human tragedy. He suffered from severe depression for years. “He had lost his life before,” mother Tonina Pantani once said, referring to the exit from the Giro d’Italia in 1999, when “Il Pirata” in the Maglia Rosa was taken out of the race after his fourth stage win because of suspected doping.

The legend lives on despite the wrongdoings

Pantani, who won the Giro and Tour in 1998 and defeated Jan Ullrich in France, found himself caught up in a personal and professional crisis – increasing allegations of manipulation and several legal proceedings destroyed his career. At the Tour de France 2000, Pantani, whose trademark, in addition to the headscarf, was his unbridled desire to attack in the mountains, celebrated his last major successes with two stage victories. Shortly afterwards, a trial began for sports fraud (a high hematocrit value was found after a racing accident in 1995), which ended with a three-month suspended prison sentence for Pantani. He tried in vain to pull himself together afterwards.

His legend lives on – despite all the misconduct and doping offenses. He remains unforgotten, especially in Cesenatico, and not just on the day of his death. The second stage of the Tour de France starts here on June 30th. “We will organize a yellow night for the occasion while we wait for the tour. It will be dedicated to Pantani,” said the mayor Matteo Gozzoli.

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