When Valentine arrives, cycling speaks with love of Marco Pantani, who died at age 34 on February 14, 15 years ago. The more years that pass from his disappearance, the greater is the magnification of his figure, which has already acquired the foggy profile of myths and converts nostalgia into melancholy for a time invented , an arcade that never existed.
How different cycling would be, how much better, if there were more now Pantanis, regret the young cyclists, and repeat the fans who start to get their teeth. Oh, you hear in the corners of Tour Colombia, if I had Pantanis, courageous cyclists guided by instinct, by courage, by the need to arrive alone, to climb solitary on the slopes of the mountains, rebels, the penanillo would not have infected everyone mediocrity, fear, the calculation of the directors who, fearful, afraid of life, everything anesthetized. "Oh," says Stefano Zanini, an Italian ex-cyclist, a sprinter from the Pantani era, who runs the Astana of Miguel Ángel López, the fishing climber. "Oh, if Michelangelo in the last Vuelta had not calculated so much, if he had attacked from farther, without fear …".
Like Zanini, in the Tour Colombia there are more Italian exciclistas born in the 70s, children of the exaggerated cycling of EPO and madness that encumbró to Pantani, and engendered other uglier monsters, driving the steering wheel of different teams. There are Stefano Zanatta, Valerio Tebaldi, Davide Bramati, Marco Villa and Alessandro Spezialetti, and there is Giovanni Lombardi, who is the manager of Sagan and Gaviria, the agent most loved by cyclists looking for a touch of distinction. The first thing they all do when asked about the dead myth is to point out their arms, sweaty in the humid climate of Rionegro, where it has rained and the fertile, bountiful land, as the poet would say, is soaked, and hot, and they say, look, look, just hear the name of Pantani that gives me goose bumps. But, overcome the sudden emotion, they do not know what speech to articulate when they are asked what they think Pantani would be now, an exciclista of almost 50 years, if he had not succumbed to his excessive and solitary life supported by such a sensitive head, a victim. "I do not know, I do not know if it would be one of us," summarizes Zanini while directing the placement of an awning that protects his Astanas in the exit area. "I suppose it would be an inspiration for young people, someone whose charisma would make him stand out everywhere, motivate young people to imitate his love of cycling … But Pantani is great because he has died."
In Italy, the press talks about the character, which overflows its cyclist personality, and count the number of plays, films, books, paintings, artists, which has inspired the life and death of cocaine overdose and antidepressants of the Cesenatico climber. he won the Giro and the Tour of 1998, and he had been erased from the great cycling due to excess hematocrit in the Giro del 99, which he already had won. A month after that, in France, on the Tour, in its forced absence, the legend of a cyclist who had overcome a cancer began to be born, Lance Armstrong.
Others, who do not want to be talked about, prefer to say that it makes no sense to look back, that Pantani, his style, would have no place in cycling now, so modern, or maybe he could go to the races as Perico Delgado goes , that has arrived at the Tour Colombia and nothing else to cross the fence of the departure park is surrounded by the curiosity of all. Perico asks about the Colombian rivals who discovered the Tour with him in 1983, with wide eyes in a look of amazement and expectation, asks for Patrocinio Jiménez, the only one of those Colombians from the 83 who is in the race, and they greet each other and They embrace and tell themselves how much they made each other suffer in the mountains. And Perico, another climber who won the Tour and never lived a tormented life, remembers his participation in the Vuelta a Colombia of '85, when the directors of the teams went by motorcycle and he remembers the noise and the spasmodic coughs of the motorbike suffocated in the Boyacá's heights of its director, Txomin Perurena, and how he suffered at height. And melancholy for an imagined past continues to invade all Valentine's Day.