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Mt Hood Classic
Photo ©: Swift

Latest Cycling News for February 16, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones

More pay homage to Pantani

Less than two days after his mysterious death in Rimini, Italy, Marco Pantani's colleagues paid their last respects to the man who will be remembered as much for his climbing exploits as for his fragile character, the combination of which could well have destroyed him.

Jan Ullrich

Marco Pantani was the only rider who stood between Jan Ullrich and victory in the 1998 Tour de France, when Il Pirata cracked Der Kaiser on a miserable day in the Alps. Pantani attacked on the Galibier and pressed home his advantage on Les Deux Alps. Ullrich, a victim of the cold and two punctures, finished 9 minutes down and lost the Tour.

Upon learning of his death, Ullrich remembered Pantani with the following words, written on his website "I learned of the death of Marco Pantani with great consternation. His premature death has shaken all of us deeply. Marco had stamped himself on his time, through his style as a cyclist. It was not by chance that he was so popular. I can't and don't want to write more here because I have no background information."

Stefano Garzelli (former teammate)

"I can't find the words," Garzelli told L'Equipe. "It is again difficult to believe. I don't know what his state of health was. I saw him for the last time at the last Giro. I didn't know that this was possible. He has had a lot of pressure, even outside cycling. He was very strong but also very sensitive. Even a normal man would have had trouble to withstand it, imagine then an athlete."

Richard Virenque

"I am revolted," Virenque was quoted in L'Equipe. "I knew Marco was depressed. The media were really out for something. They attacked a depressed man. That can drive you to the worst extremities. It is dramatic. The same thing happened to him in Italy as to me in France. If you have a family around you to help you, you can overcome the situation, otherwise, you can do incomprehensible, permanent things. Marco was left depressed. And he is dead. There is nothing more to add."

Eddy Merckx (five time Tour winner)

"Pantani became a victim of the judicial system that continued to pursue him," Merckx told Het Laatste Nieuws. "Afterwards he was a broken man. I have always regarded him as an exceptional rider, as a champion who has earned his place in the gallery of the great climbers such as Gaul, Bahamontes, Jimenez and Van Impe."

Lucien van Impe (climber extraordinaire)

"Marco found it tough to come to terms with his success," Van Impe told Het Nieuwsblad. "In Italy he couldn't even go outside any more, his popularity prevented it and it was unbelievable. I consider Pantani to be the last real climber."

Jean-Marie Leblanc (Tour de France director)

"I am surprised because a champion is struck down at 34 years," Leblanc was quoted in L'Equipe. "And not just any champion: Marco forged an extremely strong path because he was a climber, a climber with panache. Everyone remembers his attacks on the Galibier or Luz Ardiden. I'm not surprised, because we all knew well that he did not negotiate the passage between the time of success, glory and money and the return to normal life. No doubt he was too alone, not healthy or not surrounded by anyone, too weak to face the temptations. This is a waste. I am always perplexed to see someone who has the drive, the character, the strength, the determination to be a champion and not the capacity to show the same aptitude for the time of sporting retirement."

Sandro Donati (CONI's medical advisor)

The medical advisor to the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI), Sandro Donati, expressed his frustration and anger at the death of Pantani. Donati, a campaigner for better health among Italian sportsmen and vociferously anti-doping, was one of those who did not want Pantani to go to the 2000 Olympics for health reasons.

"At the moment there are doctors who must have a terrible feeling of remorse," said Donati. "It is difficult to comment on, because for the past few years I've already said what was necessary to say, and I have been described as an enemy of sport."

Gianni Petrucci (CONI president)

The president of the CONI, Gianni Petrucci, was quoted by Radio RAI as saying, "Sport is a metaphor for life and the champion, at the bottom of it all, is still just a man. It is not banal; nothing is owed to us in this life that we are passing through and all of us need to be prepared.

"We all need to question ourselves about Marco. We should have intervened to correct certain hysterias and certain extremes. With the technical directors and the athletes I always talk about the "day after" when the floodlights are extinguished and they are lining up at the door of the post office.

"We are not all great enough to adapt to the see-saw of fame, riches and subsequent stress. With Marco I will always preserve a memory of an athlete determined and fragile. Of someone who wanted to win notwithstanding all the dramas that he had lived through."

Cesenatico proclaims day of mourning

Marco Pantani's home town of Cesenatico has proclaimed a day of mourning on the occasion of his funeral, the date of which has not yet been finalised. During Pantani's funeral, all businesses in the town will suspend trading. The ceremony will take place in the church of San Giacomo, and a procession will make its way to the cemetery.

See also: a tribute to Pantani and reactions from the peloton

41st Trofeo Laigueglia

By Jeff Jones

The Italian season continues to gain momentum with the 41st edition of Trofeo Laigueglia taking place on Tuesday, February 17. Starting and finishing in Laigueglia, the 183 km race features three main climbs: Passo del Ginestro (677m, km 39.8 and 81.6) and Passo Balestrino (690m, km 151.3). The mountains classification will be awarded in memory of Denis Zanette, who died early last year.

The 2003 Trofeo Laigueglia was won by neo-pro Filippo Pozzato, who beat Fabio Sacchi and Fabio Baldato in a small bunch sprint. Pozzato will be back this year with Fabio Sacchi now one of his Fassa Bortolo teammates. In addition, Dario Frigo and Frank Vandenbroucke will take the start with Ferretti's team.

Quick.Step-Davitamon's Italian contingent will be led by Paolo Bettini and Luca Paolini, both of whom are looking to improve their condition for Milan-San Remo next month. Saeco's assault will be spearheaded by Mirko Celestino, winner in 2001 and racing on home roads. He will backed by Gilberto Simoni, Salvatore Commesso and Gerrit Glomser, among others. Team CSC has started the season well, winning the Tour of Med with Jörg Jaksche on Sunday. Jaksche will be back in action in Laigueglia, alongside Michele Bartoli, Ivan Basso and Kurt Asle-Arvesen.

Apart from these teams, there will be plenty of other challengers in Laigueglia, including Yaroslav Popovych (Landbouwkrediet), Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Stefano Garzelli (Vini Caldirola), Giuliano Figueras (Panaria), Bo Hamburger (Acqua e Sapone) and Michele Scarponi (Domina Vacanze).

Cyclingnews will have a full report of all the action following the race.

Delayed start for Hincapie

George Hincapie, who was down to start the Ruta del Sol with the US Postal-Berry Floor team, was forced out of the race with stomach problems. His place was taken by neo-pro Patrick McCarty, who was originally going to ride the Volta ao Algarve.

America's Cycling Team looking for support people

America's Cycling Team-UPMC looking for an assistant director sportif and soigneur for the Vuelta a Chile (March 11-22). Interested persons will need to be in Santiago, Chile on March 9 and will travel with the team on March 10 to the race start in Concepcion. All expenses in Chile will be covered by race organisers, although travel to and from Chile will be the responsibility of the selected personnel, who will work alongside director Mike Fraysse. Those interested should contact Mike at

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