Originally Posted by ak-zaaf
bartali even prevented civil war by winning the tour in 48!
apart from the italian sports mentality pantani was the exact opposite of the posterboy you describe.
the posterboy of the epo-era was the 90kg sprinter who couldn't get his fat *** over the kemmelberg in 1992 and in 1993 suddenly rode along with the best on the tourmalet. preferably on a 54*12 or something like that. no attacking, just putting in power.
pantani was one of a few old style climbers who dared the powerhouses by attacking every time the road went up. the old fashioned pinches every km that eventually got everybody on their back.
that and his personality is why people love him.
the almost religious adoration is italy at it's finest. from the moment they stole the '99 giro from him, he (and the italian media) portrayed him(self) as a martyr. the one that had to take the fall for an entire generation because the public wanted to see heads roll after the festina-debacle. He was the best climber of his generation (auto godlike status in italy), he was a nice but mentally weak guy and 'they' exploited and killed him.
This is a very accurate assessment of his legacy in Italy, down to the martyrdom. I recall some years ago that an Italian cycling friend once told me that most didn’t follow the sport, like calcio, but everybody watched Pantani, because he epitomized their sense of living beyond the dreams of the tragic. How much that would prove to be a prophesy. In addition he was both an assassin and an artist, which played right into the Italian love of drama, like opera, and their sense of the aesthetic.
He simply transcended the sport in Italy, arriving as he did at a mystical level that only the likes of Catholic saints could produce.
On that note it wasn't what he did, it was the way he did it. It seemed miraculous, elevating the soul to a level beyond mere mortals, albeit in the form of a misanthropic and improbable persona at the sanctuary of national pride - which, of course, the Italians revere more than anything else.