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Cycling News and Analysis

News for November 30, 1998

A visit to Pantani's house finds him back at work

"This house is becoming something like I want it. But I still do not feel it is mine. We have some work to do yet."

The new house has a great garden and two apartments. One for Marco and his partner Cristina, the other for mother Tonina (Kony) and father Ferdinand (Paul). The Pirate could have built one large house to share with his parents but in keeping with more modern times has chosen this setup.

Pantani have resumed training and goes out everyday on his bike. His father says to him: "Marco where are you going in this cold" He replies: "Papa it is time to start dancing again." To have won the Tour de France and the Giro is a great credit to any rider but it does not help Pantani pedal his bike. Pantani knows that in order to meet the challengers in 1999 like Jan Ullrich he must start preparing now.

Pantani has told Guiseppe Martinelli, the manager of Mercatone Uno-Bianchi: "Martino, we must cut all the appointments. I must start thinking of the bicycle again."

Giuseppe Martinelli reacted: "For me these words are music." He then pulled a big bag from his car - it is Pantani's new aluminium Bianchi weighing less than a kilo (frame). He has set it up with a fixed gear format - 44 and 50 on the front and 18 at the back.

Pantani was very happy. He is already following a rough program and will refine its details at the team meeting in mid-December at Madonna di Campiglio. Up until now he has interspersed riding with some games of soccer.

Till now its escapes have been alternated to the beneficial games of soccer. He says that he scored two goals in the last game. He would not be drawn on next year's calendar. "The Giro is certain. The rest will emerge. I want to see the distance of the Vuelta before I decide."

The Pirate has an overflowing calendar this autumn. "In the great majority of cases I have to decline the invitations to appear places. But it is difficult because I do not want to upset people. It is is the people who make me popular. But too many appointments will not serve me well."

What is a typical day? Pantani says: "Well 3 hours on the bike in the morning with the temperature just above zero. I meet with a photographer at lunchtime and we do what seems like an infinite number of poses. Then a TV interview and in the afternoon a gathering to celebrate the centennial of the first Mercatone Uno shop the Germanvox di Dozza Imolese."

Pantani has found a patron Romano Cenni and another, a surprise - Franco Arese, the former track and field champion and top man at Asics, who has agreed to cloth Pantani in Asics clothing.

Arese says of the new alliance: "I have watched Pantani for some time now and he has made a great impression on me. I do not want to think of the Bartoli business anymore. Asics remains in the cycling next to the champion of the champions."

Romano Cenni, Mr. Mercatone Uno, is similarly impressed by Marco Pantani: "Marco is a great man. While he remains in cycling we will remain. He is very important to us. After the Giro we had a big boost in our business. We have now opened new stores. We have 64 shops in 17 regions. We employ over 2,000 persons and have a turnover over 1,000 billion. Pantani, is important for our customers."

Pantani, it seems is also very generous with his kindness. In the summer, he sent words of encouragement to Roy Barker, who yesterday finally left hospital and now wants to come to Italy to meet with Marco.

Marco sent him a letter, which appears to have helped the boy recover. Pantani is his idol. Roy Barker, is an Englishman who has a strong admiration for Pantani. He has just left the Southport hospital where he has been for 3 months after a bad accident on his bike (he had 10 fractures in his leg, lost 5 litres of blood, and has had to have 2 very complex operations).

His fiancee Margaret, went to Cesenatico in Summer and explained to Marco that if he wrote a letter to Roy it would give him the courage to work hard for a recovery. He sent a letter and told him of his own challenge to return to fitness after Milan-Turin.

He wrote: "You must have patience and much determination, continuing to fight against what has happened to you. I understand your situation well because I have also faced the challenge."

Roy Barker will marry Margaret in a fortnight and they will take their honeymoon in Italy to meet Marco Pantani.

Interview with Bruno Risi - Switzerland's 6-Day Star

Bruno Risi is one of the most spectacular 6-Day racers of the present generation. His strong legs and blond hair excites the spectators when he is attacking or chasing down. With his usual partner, fellow Swiss Kurt Betschart he has won 21 6-Day races so far in his career. The next challenge is to win the 6-Day race in Zurich, which starts this weekend.

Bruno Risi, won the season prelude in Herning (Denmark), was second in Dortmund, first in Munich, but then, came in 6th at Gent 5 laps down. Why the loss of form?

Bruno Risi: The principal reason was that I have problems with saddle sores. They began after the 3rd night at Dortmund. I then raced in Munich using a lot of ointment and the wound was pain-free. But the week between Munich and Gent was not long enough for the wound to heal properly. So to make sure I would be okay for Zurich this week, I arranged with Kurt and the promoter Patrick Sercu to take it easier. On one night I was neutralised. My form is still there. In one of the single lap time trials I came within 2/100s of taking the course record set by sprinter Frédéric Magné.

Why didn't you give up?

Risi: I am not the type to give up. I like to go as hard as I can each time I race. Besides, it seemed to be a good chance to get some active preparation for Zurich.

The cash did not play the crucial role in your decision to keep racing?

Risi: No. If I had given up after the third night, the financial loss would have amounted to about 4000 Francs. Gent is in sporting terms one of the best 6-Day races but at the same time it is one of the worst paying races.

How did the seat complaints, which you have been spared from during your career to date, develop?

Risi: I blame the track at Dortmund, the tight curves and the constant up and down.

Why are these problems concentrated in 6-Day racers rather than road riders?

Risi: With the pressure in the curves, which can place forces of up to 3-times your own body weight on the small sitting surface. In addition, we are pedalling at a much higher rate - up to 140 and 150 revs per minute which is much quicker than the good road riders.

A layperson might think that after thousands of kms the skin would become almost like leather. This conception does not apply obviously?

Risi: Not at all. The sitting area remains delicate and you have to maintain it. A 6-Day racer must pay particular attention. Almost everyone rides with "greased" shorts.

And how is it now, on the eve of the Zurich race?

Risi: In the six days, which elapsed since Gent, I have got the problem under some control. I trained on Thursday for the first time again and experienced no pain. I have been treating the wound with special salt water from the Dead Sea - it is very salty and has a high mineral content. I also use aloe vera cream which renews the skin cells 7 times faster than under normal conditions.

Zurich is obviously very important for you - being the home town rider?

Risi: Public success in Zurich is a strong stimulus to us. However, I am the type of rider who goes hard to win everytime. Although we are unbelievably popular, for example, in Munich, Zurich is nevertheless always quite special. It is our home track, and we know many of the fans who come to watch. They sit in the same places and we know that. As soon as we make a move, the crowd erupts and we get a great boost from that.

Why have you dominated the 6-Day racing? There is now a gap between you and Kurt and the rest.

Risi: Why this gap developed is a complex question. It has something to do with the fact that younger teams are being promoted with an eye to the future. I know the promoters are aware of the problem and with the federations are seeking to redress it.

Previously, the organisers were anxious to keep stable teams and also teams of the same nationality.

Risi: There are promoters who want to tear us apart. Into Herning, for example, I was told that I would ride with Skibby and Kurt with Sandstod. But we remained firm and said to the promoter that we would only come if we were teamed together. We cannot be softened by cash. We will not ride separately for any cash sum. We began to race together in 1991, and we have already won 21 races. We plan to exceed the overall record exceed the record of 29 6-Day victories set by Kilian/Vopel.

Current UCI Cross Rankings:

 1.  (1) Richard Groenendaal (Ned)		1976
 2.  (2) Adrie van der Poel (Ned)    		1379
 3.  (3) Mario De Clercq (Bel)       		1355
 4.  (4) Daniele Pontoni (Ita)         		1256
 5.  (5) Sven Nijs (Bel)                  	1156
 6.  (6) Marc Janssens (Bel)              	 896
 7.  (7) Erwin Vervecken (Bel)             	 786
 8.  (9) Beat Wabel (Swi)            		 711
 9.  (8) Dieter Runkel (Swi)           		 584
10. (10) Radomir Simunek (Cze)          	 568
11. (12) Juri Pospisil (Cze)          		 522
12. (11) Peter Van Santvliet (Bel) 		 498
13. (13) Bart Wellens (Bel)                	 453
14. (14) Peter Dlask (Cze)            		 402
15. (15) Danny de Bie (Bel)           		 3??