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Tales from the Peloton

Mercatone Uno-Scanavino Team Presentation

Determined Marco Pantani Ready To Rage

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

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Ear, ear old chap
Photo: © AFP

"I have a new desire to race again and challenge my adversaries," said a tanned and fit looking Marco Pantani at the presentation of his 'new' Mercatone Uno-Scanavino team.

Clearly in a good mood in front of a sold-out house of sponsors, media and his loyal "tifosi", Pantani's team was officially presented on Saturday, February 15 at the Teatro Vittorio Alfieri in Asti, Italy. Managed by Davide Boifava, who was the 33 year old Pantani's first pro director on Carrera, Mercatone Uno-Scanavino consists of 19 riders, with Pantani's loyal praetorian guard led by 38 year old Roberto Conti, 37 year old Fabiano Fontanelli and 34 year old Dani Clavero supporting Il Pirata. Add to the mix Cristian Gasperoni, climbers Ruggero Borghi and Massimo Codol, sprinters Enrico Degano and Mario Manzoni and neo-pros like Andrea Moletta, Ivan Ravaioli and Luca Solari, the TT2 squad, with a budget of 2.5 million euros, looks respectable.

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The new Pantani
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"I'm still here", said Pantani, seeking to convince not only himself but his new sponsors that this new comeback is for real. "I've trained a lot and trained well; above all, I'm in a different mood than I used to have. I'm just a lot more angry and I've decided that I and only I will decide when and how I will stop my cycling career. It might be in a year or in two months, but I don't want to retire with the remorse and sadness that would come from things that had nothing to do with any physical decline."

Pantani continued his reflective discourse in Asti with some revealing words, saying "there was a long time where my heart was telling me to keep riding, but the frustration was telling me to stop. For 6 months, I isolated myself, I didn't touch my bike and I gained 10 kilos. But in December, I started riding again and little by little, I rediscovered my love for cycling and the sense of freedom that only cycling brings to me."

Pantani hopes to be competitive for the Giro and possibly the Tour de France, and doesn't seem too worried about a possible suspension by the CAS. "I'm not worried about this...I hope to be racing again at the Vuelta Almeria or Vuelta Murcia, the 2nd or 5th of March."

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The Pantani of old
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Pantani's immediate goal is to show that he is competitive again and deserves to be selected for the Giro d'Italia. "Can I come back to the level of the Pantani of 1998?", he asked rhetorically and answered himself by saying "that Pantani has gone away and this (new) Pantani could even be better. Look, I'm not trying to fool anyone; I've only made one promise to myself and that is to not give up."

While Mercatone Uno-Scanavino makes its official debut at Trofeo Laigueglia next Tuesday, Pantani will have to await the decision of the CAS, expected within a week. Although Pantani's crew is hopeful that the appeal of UCI to re-instate his suspension will be denied, there is a chance that the CAS will impose some penalty, but that any suspension will be well over, so Pantani can start the Giro d'Italia on May 10th in Lecce, Italy.

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