Marco Pantani you are in heaven | Cycling | Sports

Italy, and all of cycling, celebrates Marco Pantani like a god, who died like a dog, alone and forgotten, of cocaine overdose, sadness and hopelessness, on Valentine’s night 2004. He lived in a room in Le Rose , a dark hotel in Rimini, winter on the Adriatic beaches, 20 kilometers, the same sand, the same sea, from his house in his Cesenatico, empty,

Twenty years later, the old are mortified, the young are dreaming.

Terrified by the early end, he was 34 years old, of the cyclist who returned the Tour to Italy 33 years after Felice Gimondi’s victory, and burdened with guilt, the Pirate’s contemporaries invent his tender past, rid it of impurities, They write books with their life and against the system that drowned a bicycle poet, a pure climber, the purest of all, even more so than Charly Gaul, than Federico, than Tarangu, and the most unpredictable, who committed the The same sins as all the cyclists of his time, the same borrowed blood, the same EPO, the same amphetamines and insulins, the same skyrocketing hematocrit, he was more persecuted than anyone else, perhaps because he was like no one else, different from everyone, and an ounce of madness. . Pantani’s dreams, his pride, and none other were destroyed like him, by a hypocritical anti-doping rule, which allowed doping with EPO only up to 50% of the hematocrit, which was applied to him one early morning in June 1999 in Madonna di Campiglio, 72 hours before arriving in Milan in pink, absolute winner of his second Giro.

Pantani’s attack on the Galibier in the 1998 Tour in front of Ullrich.picture alliance (EL PAÍS)

Pantani glued his ears because he didn’t want to continue being called an elephantine, he pierced them and put on a gold pirate ring, and he shaved his skull and covered it with a pirate scarf, a bandana, the better soul of a pirate, and the Pirate he was, that of Dumbo. He exhausted Indurain in the Mortirolo of the ’94 Giro and forced the Navarrese into a furious sprint in the ’95 World Championship; he destroyed Ullrich in the Galibier of the ’98 Tour, which he won two months after winning the Giro; He drove Armstrong crazy, one who only understood himself and only respected his will, in the 2000 Tour, on Mont Ventoux and in Courchevel. Always in the mountains, like the Alpe d’Huez where he won twice, the second after having spent a year on crutches after breaking his leg when his bike collided with a car that had jumped the barriers in Milan. -Turin 95. Pantani, like many, like Chava Jiménez, an uncontrollable climber, so irrational, whom he admired so much, ended up in the hands of Eufemiano Fuentes, who promised him that he would make him fly again; like Chava, dead like him, uprooted, maddened, three months before, he never flew again.

Twenty years later Pantani is the protagonist of a new story, the one he never wrote. Movies, more books, plays, and a museum. Everything is little to clear the guilt.

He rebelled against the Tour in ’98, the Festina Tower, the police in the hotels, cyclists and directors spending the night naked in the police station, packages of EPO in the English Channel on the way back from Dublin. He stood with the platoon and protested. “The platoon has always been a flock of sheep,” he said. “But now we are just the black sheep.” And the Tour, his roads are pages, as Rubén sings, he embraces the sweetened memory of him and this summer he makes a stage in Cesenatico and Rimini.

His mother, Tonina, with whom he cooked piadinas of Nutella at her kiosk in the park, tormented, and like all mothers, it cannot enter her head that one of her sons preferred self-destruction to the love he could not find, she pursues all the prosecutors and judges in the country to obtain a sentence that I freed his soul: my Marco did not commit suicide, he cries uselessly, my son was murdered.

Young people who were children or had not been born when he died visit his museum in Cesenatico – a jersey from the mountain of the Vuelta a Murcia, conqueror of the Morrón de Totana, the Collado Bermejo, the Sierra Espuña; so much room for Tonina’s obsession, so much evidence of God’s murder never admitted by the judges—as Elvis fans visit Graceland or Jim Morrison’s grave in Paris. On YouTube, reproductions of his triumphs, his attacks, and his victories continue to be number one. He is a legend died young, like Janis Joplin, like James Dean. And they cry out like César Vallejo, “so much love and not being able to do anything against death!”

Young cyclists want to be Pantani. Contador swells with pride when in Italy he is compared to the Pirate, and so does Egan Bernal; When he attacks in the mountains, Landa raises his ass and lowers his hands to the bottom of the handlebars, like Pantani did when he sprinted on the vertical walls of Mortirolo.

Stefano Garzelli, a cyclist who was his partner in the Mercatone Uno, and, with a smooth skull like him, covered with the same pirate bandana, won the 2000 Giro with his help, cannot find peace. He is not looking for a story that will calm him down. He still cries. “I reflect on the fact that Marco died near his house, alone. “Everyone admired him, idolized him, but he was alone when he ended his earthly life,” he says in La Gazzetta dello Sport. “It is an indescribable, heartbreaking contrast. It hurts me a lot”.

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