Originally Posted by Dr. Maserati
Cycling was looked at as more than a sport - Coppi & Bartalis achievements were used as a symbol to restore pride back in to Italy
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.