Marco Pantani Wins the L'Alpe d'Huez


Today my mom came and visited me from Spooner bringing with her a box of my old junk that...well, was probably cluttering up her house. So after she took off, I found myself digging through the box and finding all kinds of old, archived treasures like this page I'd ripped out of a magazine a thousand years ago of Marco Pantani setting the record on L'Alpe d'Huez.  As far as I know, his record still stands (Armstrong would have beaten it, but they decided to measure it from a different place when Armstrong did his supreme effort...politics).


I always liked Pantani mainly because he was CLEARLY the best climber in the tour for a few years, but also because of his complete disdain for the polka dot jersey.  He didn't even try to win that, and used to berate Richard Virenque for winning all his polka dot jerseys by sprinting for the category 3 climbs (which is a pretty funny thing to say when you think about it).

Pantani wanted stage wins...and he even stole an overall win from Jan Ulrich in 1998 (he won the Giro that year as well...that was his year I suppose...much like Roche in 1987 [he deserves an article too honestly]).

Watching the 1998 tour was surreal.  Pantani lost a ridiculous amount of time in the prologue and early time trials and it looked like he was just chillin'.  But then he exploded and just dominated in the mountains (you might remember 1998 as the year Bobby Julich was 3rd).

The Italian fans used to love Pantani and they gave him the nickname "The Little Elephant"--it sounds better in Italian, it's something like il'elphantino.  Well, Pantani didn't want to deal with a lame nickname that called him an elephant (probably because you could see where the fans were coming from...he does kind of look like a little elephant as he rides), and he changed his name to The Pirate and started wearing bandannas, Goatees and the occasional parrot and eye patch (Ok, he didn't do those last two).  I remember Lance sort of berated him for "making up" his own nickname and said something like, "well...what if I started calling myself 'Big Tex'."  Lance has a point, but the most important thing is that Pantani got The Pirate to stick, nobody calls lance Big Tex (maybe we're all just looking for an excuse to call someone The Pirate).

Sadly, Pantani died on Valentine's day in 2004 from what appeared to be a cocaine overdose.  He never rose as high again as he did in 1998...but heck, few people have a year like that now do they?

Pantani's another one of those old school riders with panache.  Seriously, there aren't too many guys like that in the peloton now...nor have there ever been.

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