The mithical one, gone a year ago! Could Armstrong have beaten him in 99?

Discussion in 'Professional Cycling' started by ilpirata, Feb 13, 2005.

  1. ilpirata

    ilpirata New Member

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    Eddy Merckx on the topic of Marco Pantani,

    “They treated him as a criminal, but he never killed anyone. And this is what has bothered me the most of the story of Marco Pantani. They have given him an altogether improper image.” And then “even this is an injustice, to speak of a relationship between Pantani and doping: he had the means and the way to win without doping, that is in a contest made in a certain way. Oh, if only he could have kept his feet on the ground”
     
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  2. Perro Loco

    Perro Loco New Member

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    Could Armstrong have beaten him in 99?
    yes
    the 99 tour had only 4 mountain stages (with one having a long flat stretch before the finish) only three finishes at altitude. Plus two long individual time trials. Even before being booted out of the Giro Pantani stated he did not fingd the 99 tour profile appealing.
     
  3. ilpirata

    ilpirata New Member

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    We will never know obviously. The story has already been written. Armstrong, the consummate champion, has the chance for his 7th tour. A herculean achievement. But I do know the Pantani of 1999 was in better form than in 1998. It is one thing to admit that the profile of the tour is not optimal for his characteristics and yet another that he did not think he could bury his opposition in those 3 or 4 mountain stages to win the overall.

    Furthermore it is my feeling that Armstrong might have been a bridesmaid for a number of years at the tour, while Pantani would have perhaps triple doubled giro-tour.
     
  4. Perro Loco

    Perro Loco New Member

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    Pantanis hematocrit was definitely higher in 99, not sure about his form.
    Although I know this will cause some people to be upset, I think Pantani was lucky to have won one tour. Ullrich (who showed up in less thanoptimal condition) bonked on one stage and lost right at 9 minutes, yet still only lost the overall by less than 3 1/2 minutes. Could Pantani have won another tour? Possibly, but it would have required a bit of luck. Also the institution of the team time trial would not have been to his advantage. Furthermore I think the days of double grand tour winners are over. Riders base their whole preperation for a single event. It's hard to peak at that level in a short period of time.
     
  5. ilpirata

    ilpirata New Member

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    Everyone is entitled to an opinion, in fact with all the garbage heaped on Pantani over the years i am never surprised to hear views such as yours. Conversely however, I believe that Mr. Ullrich and Mr. Riis are more fortunate, in that Pantani was injured and lost all of 96 and then another injury at giro 97. So that only in 98 was he returning to previous form.
    In regards to the hematocrit, it is "TOTAL FABRICATION" as I will explain:
    The events of June5,1999 were the catalyst in the downward spiral for the pirate. I want to impress on you however, that to get to the truth about whether or not there was a conspiracy to bring down Pantani, you can not look to the Italian media for much help. Most of the journalists are told what to say, and only a few have supported Marco Pantani through his dark times. I truly wish someone would go those steps necessary to get at the truth. But one thing for sure is that the mainstream media in Italy had more than a small part in destroying the pirate. In fact to this day they still defame him with every sort of calumny. I will touch on this as consisely as possible.

    After years of saying how Marco had been pumping himself with epo and how even his greatest victories were put into question. The procurator who had persecuted Marco with allegations of sporting fraud had asked for extra information from the autopsy convinced that there would be irrefuteable evidence of doping. However the performing doctor (Dr. Fortuni) gave the following statement in a live interview “After all statements over the years that had been written about Pantani and doping, I had expected to see evidence of bone marrow damage, I was surprised to find that it was integral and completely normal. This means that Pantani could not have used any significant quantity nor for any significant length of time the epo.” When pressed further he says “yes it leaves irreversible signs in the bone marrow”. For two days no major Italian paper prints this story. On day three a modified statement supposedly from Dr. Fortuni ( though without the interview), appears in the big papers: “ that certainly Marco Pantani had not used epo in the last period of his life”.

    The procurator was named Guariniello. He has jurisdiction in Turin. It is he who in recent times has taken a number of testimonies from soccer players of the famous Juventus club. Many have admitted the use of epo, and other elicit performance enhancers, but they were only testifying as witnesses. It is clear that a certain medical assistant will take the fall, and then later on appeal get a reduced sentence. Conversely, in 2000, Pantani is indicted for sporting fraud (for suspected use of epo in 1995) and suffers a disqualification of 6 months. Naturally on appeal, the charges are dropped because in 1995 there was no rule against high hematocrit, and it is was not a crime. But the damage in peace of mind, money, time, and reputation was done.

    This Guariniello had uncovered hospital records (5 years old at the time) of Pantani with high hematocrit following the accident at the 95 Milan- Torino where he had that terrible fall that cost him a season. A race the man was not trying to win (riding in the back of the pack). Doctors for the defence provide that it is not unusual for an athlete returning from altitude racing in Columbia, who is dehydrated and with trauma, bone fractures, contusions, and blood loss to have high hematocrit (Also the measurement accuracy was put into question). Guariniello is able to find other doctors who will testify the way he prefers. Who were these doctors i.e. scientific advisors? Doctors Benzi and Ceci, who were part of CONI's anti-drug commission! Naturally this obvious conflict of interest was part of the defences appeal of the first decision (Pantani found guilty of sporting fraud). At the appeal hearing (where the case was thrown out, see above) Pantani’s lawyer Cecconi makes the following statement “"There are also a lot of scientific guidelines on the oscillations of hematocrit. The advisers for the prosecution considered an oscillation beyond 2-3 percent anomalous. In another court case dealing with doping (Bologna), the scientific advisers made reference to scientific studies conducted in the USA in which oscillations of up to 70 percent were explained. There are many controversial aspects and a highly qualified expert could clear them up,"



    And there is of course the testimony of Renato Vallanzasca who writes of how he had been approached in prison by an inmate who had inside information during the time of the 99 Giro. A inmate suggested to him that he should bet any money he had on the rider he best thought could win, because it is a certainty that bald one will not arrive to the Milan finish. You see, that was the first year that betting on the Giro was allowed. Now you may start to think, Hmmm. Yes this is a country famous for it’s sport betting scandals. Remember Paolo Rossi. In 1981 Paolo Rossi, a tremendous young soccer talent had to serve suspension as a result of a semi uncovered game fixing scandal. Luckily he just finished his suspension and went on to lead Italy to a world cup in soccer. No thanks to the betting mafia.

    When there is money to be made, who cares about sport heros.

    It is now known (but not widespread knowledge of course) that 373 million lire were bet on Pantani to win the overall classification for giro 1999, for a required payout of 605 million lire should he have won. The odds had started at 2/1 but as the bets came in, later dropped to 1.1/1. A total of 480 million lire were bet on the overall classification winner. Only 15 million were bet on Ivan Gotti (the eventual winner). A neat swing of basically a half a million dollars in the favor of the betting mafia!

    What else, the testimony of Marco Velo and Siboni who were ex-teamates of Pantani, who declare that every number of strange phone calls were received by Mercatone team the night before the infamous blood test. Reporters and opposing team riders asking “is it true Marco is not to start tomorrow?”

    According to Roberto Pregnalato the massage therapist for Mercatone Uno team, journalists that were following the giro that year, already knew the results of the blood test that would exclude Pantani from giro 99, half an hour before the blood was even drawn. They had attended a meeting of the organizers the night before.

    In the nationally televised show Porta a Porta, both Velo and Pregnolato were quickly cut off mid- sentence and hustled off stage while the show went to commercial break, yes they had started to recount the events surrounding the June 5th exclusion of Marco Pantani at Giro 1999.

    If it wasn’t a setup why does Marco Pantani pass the team hematocrit test the night of the 4th with a measurement of 48 and then get the same result at Dozza Imolese hospital three hours after getting the infamous out of the norm result of 52 on the 5th.

    Why hasn’t anyone tried to find out why Pantani (without ever having tested positive to any antidoping control) has been so clamorously and insistently investigated, incriminated, and condemned in first degree, by so many tribunals without even a law that claims the suppositions as a crime.

    Why the procurator of Florence, who ordered the blitz of giro 2001 has not been asked why in three years there was not done a DNA test on this siringe found in a room (a room rented by Mercatone Uno but not necessarily Pantani’s room) in a hotel that Pantani had abbandoned a day earlier to see if it was used by Pantani. Instead Marco pays 8 months of disqualification, and the truth is never to be officially known.

    Or to Dr. Ajello (PM of the antidoping comission for CONI) why it was never asked , in one of the numerous spaces dedicated to him in the major papers, how come he resigned from his job, because he was “scandalized by the absolution of Pantani given by CAF”? As it turned out a useless absolution because not recognized by the UCI and yet he did not resign or become scandalized for the soccer players who were actually found positive by the antidoping tests and nothing done?

    What about on the eve of the 2000 Sydney olympics when several Italian athletes were found with high hematocrit and growth hormone traces, but the papers only mention Pantani who was on the high end of normal. And all that suppositional crap about his sick bone marrow from the supposed overuse and dependency on epo.

    Here it is you italian cyclists. If you don’t do what you are told, and you go against the betting mafia, and the money men, you will pay the price in Italy. In fact if you look at the riders who have received suspensions for testing positive to antidoping controls in recent years Frigo, Garzelli, and Simoni you will see that they quietly served their suspensions and re-entered without being bombarded by calumny and tribunals. They understood the lesson of Marco Pantani. (The exclusion of Simoni and Garzelli the two favorites in Giro 2002 was also very suspicious also from a betting angle)
     
  6. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    Before answering the question which was posed - let there be no doubt, Marco Pantani was a class rider from day one in the professional peloton.
    Day one.
    Like Jan Ullrich.

    I well recall speaking with Stephen Roche (we cycled together in Roche's amateur career) about Pantani in 1997 and Roche said that Marco was identified very early in his (MP's) amateur career as a class act.

    So much so, Roche brought him to Carerra in the early 1990's (SR was the team leader at the time).
    His palmares in the early 1990's after his debut was astonishing - he won stages in the TDF, Giro.
    Got to the podium of the TDF in his early career and had monumental battles with Ivan Gotti, Pavel Tonkov, in the Giro.
    He also outpaced the great Miguel Indurain in the 1995 TDF in the Alp D'Huez and Guizet Neige stages.
    I think it would be fair to say from 1994 onwards Pantani was coming in to his prime.

    Unfortunately he suffered two horrendous crashes and this set his progress back.
    1998 TDF/Giro double did not surprise me.

    I think that in 1999, Pantani would have beaten Armstrong, all things being equal.
    I do believe that MP was not afraid of anyone - least of LA.
     
  7. micron

    micron New Member

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    that's an excellent point Limerickman - Pantani certainly was never 'psychologically' dominated by Armstrong as many other riders seem to allow themselves to be. I always remember the way that Pantani attacked in 2000 really early on a mountain stage and Armstrong was panicking, chasing him and calling Dr Ferrari for advice...

    Pantani was a stage racer from day one and had the ability to animate and attack in a way that no one racing today is capable of doing.
     
  8. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    Well thanks for this.

    Yeah, Marco was no respecter of reputations - Indurain said so when he posted his views about MP when the news broke of his death.
    BigMig said that MP attacked without fear or favour.

    I'd love to see some of the current bunch attacking more, instead of meekly rolling over.
     
  9. tcklyde

    tcklyde New Member

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    Lim and Micron make excellent points. Marco possessed an incredible spirit and a tremendous will. He would have made a drab 1999 Tour much more exciting. I have the utmost respect for him as a racer. He is a hero to me today, the kind of person I think of when I ride, especially when I'm sloggin up a tough climb.

    But I'm reluctant to say he would have won in 1999. It would have been a much better Tour, especially in the later mountain stages when LA softened. But I doubt Marco could have gained the time in the mountains to match LA in the TTs. Afterall, Marco lost over 7 mins to JU in TTs in 1998. And like it or not, and whatever the competition that did show up in 1999, LA was (and is) a superb time trialist.
     
  10. tcklyde

    tcklyde New Member

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    One other point....

    I don't want to compare Pantani and Virenque. And I know Virenque is reviled. But so what. Virenque had a great spirit in the Tour. He was never afraid of making a break. And though, especially in his later years, knew he wasn't going to be on the podium, always raced hard. His win on Mt. Ventoux in 2002 was a classic.
     
  11. ilpirata

    ilpirata New Member

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    Certainly we would not have seen alternating exchanges as we did between Armstrong and Basso this past year!
     
  12. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    Yep, Basso having a full scale conversation with Armstrong.
    It's pathetic.

    Don't remember Kelly or Hinault or Fignon having full scale conversations with their opponents.
    Nor Merckx.

    Ullrich and Pantani didn't exchange pleasantries.
    Mutual respect was evident - I remember the stage in the 1998 TDF, the day after Ullrich blew up on Les Deux Alps - the next day Ullrich blasted out and he and MP stayed together the entire stage, finishing 1st and 2nd respectively.
    They weren't chatting or having a conversation.
    A simple handshake as they crossed the line sufficed.
     
  13. mareblu

    mareblu New Member

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  14. ilpirata

    ilpirata New Member

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    Yes Mareblu I am aware of Wilcockson's book. I wrote him a letter. He does not enter into the question of a conspiracy, nor will anyone. The veteran Italian riders know the truth, but they have their families and careers to think about.
     
  15. gntlmn

    gntlmn New Member

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    These are precisely the points I would have made. Marco was a sensational climber, but barely better, if any, than Armstrong in the mountains. Armstrong clearly is better on the flats than Pantani ever was. I did enjoy watching any mountain stage with Pantani, however, and I was disappointed when the races did not include him. He was a fearless, almost to the point of being reckless with his reserves, attacker in the mountains.
     
  16. gntlmn

    gntlmn New Member

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    I guess this is one example of the difficulty of being a celebrity, and that is to always have to consider your actions as they are seen by the fans. You see, Armstrong has a special relationship with Basso which is beyond the confines of the sport of cycling. I am not going to say what that is out of respect for Basso, who has asked the press for privacy in this matter, but if you want to do a google search, you will see Basso's name in the news recently, in fact, very recently.

    In this context, your statements here are in very bad taste. However, I have read enough from you in the past to know that you have no intention of doing this. You don't realize that your comments are very disrespectful. It's a shame that the need for privacy can work against a rider in a situation like this. I think you will agree with me; this is a tragedy. I don't fault you for having the view you had. It seems logical. The fact that it is inappropriate is not at all evident on the surface.
     
  17. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    Sorry, yeah, I read about Basso and the bereavement of his mother - so yes, it would be understandable that they would be talking.

    I was simply making a point about competitors chatting -
    It was more an observation about how benign the peloton has become when compared to the old days (or maybe I've got the rose tinted glasses on !).

    No disrespect was intended to Basso or indeed Armstrong in this instance.
     
  18. ilpirata

    ilpirata New Member

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    Certainly it is good for competitors to be sporting and to have respect for each other. It is even good if they are friends and help each other out when not racing. When I referred to "exchanges" I was more referring to the reciprocal cooperation of exchanging the lead to augment their advantage over the peleton. I understand it technically, but much prefer a race where pretenders to the throne do not engage in such pacts with the royalty.
    In response to Gtlmn, you may be right that Armstrong would win in 99. However you are basing on what was seen in the direct confrontation between Pantani and Armstrong in 2000. Like I say, Pantani of 1999 was stronger than 1998 and significantly stronger than the Pantani of 2000 with all his problems. Also a tour de france winner can generate or command more investment into his team the following year, so these are all factors that would have made this particular confrontation very interesting.
     
  19. gntlmn

    gntlmn New Member

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    True about the investment in the following year, but please enlighten me. I don't recall Pantani having near the time trialing skills, even in his best year, of the best of the peloton, namely Lance. Maybe you might point to a race or two where he demonstrates this. I haven't seen it.

    As I stated earlier, he was a joy to watch in the mountains. He had a certain style of riding that made him look invincible in the mountains, yet he was about the same as Lance is on the climbs. Marco seemed to do it with more flair. If he was better than Lance, it was only marginally on the climbs.
     
  20. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    About the same as LA as a climber ?
    Marginally better ?
    Perhaps time has faded your memory.
    As a climber, Pantani was without equal.

    His back to back victories in the 1995 TDF (D'Huez and Niege) were phenomenal.
    No one could live with him.
    Indurain, no mean climber himself, in the book "Indurain - a life on wheels" says on page 165 "If I tried to follow Pantani (today) I would burst !"

    Page 166 "who could live with Pantani, today" he says rhethorically.
    Les Deux Alpes in the 1998 Jan Ullrich said "Pantani shows that he is in a different class than the rest of us. There was no way to reign him in - one moment he's there but as soon as the road goes up, he's gone"

    Armstrong - well we know he couldn't climb between 1992-1996 and now he's, err, an all time great.
    That's of course if you take what you see at face value - which I don't.
     
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