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Marco Pantani (Cesena, Italy, January 13, 1970 – Rimini, Italy, February 14, 2004) was an Italian professional cyclist between 1992 and 2003. He won a Tour of Italy , a Tour de France and also a bronze medal in the 1995 cycling World Cup. Nicknamed “El Pirata”, he obtained his best results in cycling tests per stage, and it was until 2014 (Vincenzo Nibali) the last Italian in winning the Tour de France (in 98, 33 years after Felice Gimondi) and the last cyclist to win the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France in the same year (previously this was achieved by Fausto Coppi in 1949 and 1952, Jacques Anquetil in 1964, Eddy Merckx in 1970, 1972 and 1974, Bernard Hinault in 1982 and 1985, Stephen Roche in 1987 and Miguel Indurain in 1992 and 1993). He is considered one of the best climbers in the history of cycling.
Of 1,72 meters of height and 57 kilos of weight, Pantani had the classic type of climber, as it demonstrated in the Tour of his debut, in 1994, being third in the final classification. Just when he was guessing the takeoff of his career, Pantani suffered a terrible collision with a car, during Milan-Turin, which caused a double fracture in one leg threatening the premature end of his professional career.
In 1997, recovered from the serious injury, he returned to the competition, but during the Giro he suffered a fall when a cat crossed his path, which caused his retirement from the race. In the Tour of that year he starred in an intense fight for the yellow jersey; Although he was unbeatable on the mountain, Jan Ullrich, very superior in the time trial stages, knew how to limit the time lost in the Alps and Pyrenees achieving the final victory and relegating Pantani to third place.
The following year (1998), Pantani finally managed to defeat Ullrich by getting over him an advantage of almost 9 minutes in the very long stage Grenoble – Les Deux Alpes, where Pantani started his attack in the port of Galibier. Although Ullrich tried to recover the lost time in the later stage, which reached Albertville (previous climb to the very hard Col de la Madeleine) the comeback was not possible and Pantani became the first Italian, since Felice Gimondi in 1965, to wear the yellow jersey in Paris. His achievement was remarkable, since for many years the Tour had been dominated by specialists from the time trial like Miguel Indurain, Jan Ullrich and Bjarne Riis; from the time of Pedro Delgado, no climber had obtained the victory, and his success, in a certain way, made the legend of the specialist of the mountain reappear.
The same year he proclaimed himself the winner of a Giro that was not designed to his measure without many mountain stages. The advantage he gained in the Italian summits, where he won 2 stages, allowed him to finally overcome time trial specialists such as Alex Zülle and Pável Tonkov.
In the 1999 Giro, after winning in four stages and being the outstanding leader of the race, he was disqualified when hematocrit levels were high in his blood, which suggested a case of doping with EPO, although this was not possible. prove conclusively. In the 2000 Tour he ran with no chance of victory, although he showed flashes of his mountain quality. In a heads up on the climb to Mont Ventoux, he managed to escape with Lance Armstrong, who would be the final winner of the Tour. Upon reaching the goal, Armstrong gave him the stage victory; however, Pantani did not appreciate the gesture, originating the bad relations between both, aggravated when referring Armstrong to Pantani as the “Elephantine”, a nickname that he hated. This would be the penultimate victory of Pantani, being the last, this time alone, another mountain stage in that same Tour. Despite these 2 stage victories in the Tour, El Pirata ended up retiring, totally sunk morally for his alleged doping. From then on he hardly returned to compete.
Decline of the cyclist and death
Despite the case of the accusation of doping, Pantani’s popularity did not decline due to his explosive attacks that encouraged the race after years of mastery of specialists in the time trial and restored to the mountain the prominence in the race he had before .
He was considered by many to be the best professional climber of his generation, in large part due to his triumph in the Tour de France and the Tour of Italy in 1998. The tape he used to wear on his shaved head and his attacking style in the bicycle earned him the nickname of El Pirata. However, from 1999, his career was cut short by accusations of doping, which he always rejected.
On February 14, 2004 Pantani was found dead in a hotel room in the Italian seaside resort of Rimini, where he had arrived a few days before. The suspicion that he had committed suicide, after antidepressant medications were found in the room (including some empty boxes and other initiated ones) was discarded by the investigating attorney; however, it was not completely rebutted. Marco Pantani was going through a depressive crisis. A year before, the Spanish cyclist Chava Jiménez, a good friend of El Pirata, died in the same circumstances.
The autopsy caused a death of the heart as a result of pulmonary and cerebral edema. On March 19, 2004, the official report of the autopsy on Pantani established that Pantani died of an overdose of cocaine. His addiction to this substance went back to the autumn of 1999, shortly after his expulsion from the Giro d’Italia, an addiction that was known in his circle of friends. Many of these consider that El Pirata actually died before 2004, specifically, that morning in 1999 in the town of Madonna di Campiglio, where the penultimate stage of the Giro began, which was already practically sentenced, as the emotional and psychological blow involved. for the cyclist it was tremendous and he never recovered. On March 14, 2016, it was judicially proven that Pantani’s positive in 1999 had been manipulated by the Mafia and that he was innocent.
In 2008, Pantani’s mother explains her version of the facts about the death of her son in a book entitled Era il mio figlio (“It was my son”).
On July 24, 2013, a commission of inquiry of the Senate of France published a report that included the results of some analyzes carried out in 2004 on blood and urine samples collected during the 1998 Tour de France. Pantani was associated with some of the samples that tested positive for EPO, as well as the other cyclists who accompanied him on the podium in that edition of the French race Jan Ullrich and Bobby Julich.
In August 2014, the Rimini Prosecutor’s Office reopened the investigation into the death of Marco Pantani, accepting the thesis of the Pantani family lawyer, according to which the cyclist was beaten and forced to drink cocaine diluted in water.
On March 14, 2016, an Italian court officially recognized that Pantani’s positive in 1999 had been manipulated by the Mafia to control and manipulate sports betting.
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