“Spaghetti with jam”, we remind you this way. Happy birthday, Marco Pantani

His sports director Giuseppe Martinelli, Davide Cassani and his lifelong friend Andrea Agostini tell the story of the champion who would have turned 52 today

A nice plate of spaghetti with jam: today the watchword is good humor and only happy memories. Happy birthday, Marco. On January 13, 1970 Marco Pantani was born, “More than a cyclist an emotion”, as Gianni Mura, one of his most affectionate singers, said. It is useless then to draw up the Pirate’s palmares, with the list of his most iconic climbs and breathtaking victories sublimated by the 1998 Giro-Tour double, an undertaking that was only successful in Italy for Fausto Coppi. Almost everything has already been said. More than lists and numbers, Marco’s anecdotes and gradations are in the sights of the day: retracing some of them are his ds Giuseppe Martinelli, Davide Cassani and Marco’s lifelong friend and first teammate, Andrea Agostini. Let’s rewind the tape then.

Agostini and the penniless holiday

Phuket Island. “‘Marco, do you realize that we have been fighting for 1000 lire for an hour? Let’s go’. We had just arrived and it was the last taxi that could take us from the airport to the coast: we really risked staying on foot”. Speaking is Andrea Agostini, one of Marco’s first school and bike mates. The two were together in Thailand: just 21 years old and very little money in his pocket: “It was our first vacation outside Italy. We had long hair, even though he was already a little bald (laughs ed) and earrings. It was an adventure: we had only booked the flight and nothing else to save. It is one of the happiest memories I have of Marco. We stayed there for a month, it was November and we had just closed amateur season. No bikes. On the other hand we tried to explain to our local friends, showing them some cycling magazines, that this was our job: they didn’t conceive it and thought that the bike could only be used to go from point A to point B so they looked at us strange “. He laughs:” There we used to ride the tuk-tuks because there were 20% tears, just the terrain of Marco and in fact we fantasized about how nice it would be to ride with those gradients. “This first trip together with the Pirate, for Andrea, who later became one of his press officers, will be the first of a long series, even if, in a life always in a hurry, to remain etched in his memory, moving the hand forward a few year, will mainly be the returns home: “Marco had a visceral bond with Cesenatico. When we returned he was very happy and first of all we did the “tub”, the walk to Porto Canale. It took us the whole afternoon to do 2 km because we stopped to talk to everyone. He loved this. And even talking to the fishermen, he spent hours in the pond fishing. “A forkful.

The children still ask me about him

1991. A sad winner. It is the time trial of Mugello. Both amateurs and professionals run it. Among the latter the triumph is all of Gianni Bugno. The palm in the lower category is instead of the emerging Marco Pantani. But the boy doesn’t smile. “I asked Roncucci (Marco’s sporting director) why and I understood: he was sad because he wanted to set a lower time than Bugno who was already an established champion! Marco was always determined.” Speaking is the former blue coach Davide Cassani who will become his press officer at Mercatone Uno but also his commentator. And his iron character was revealed to the world in 1994, the year of his baptism with the successes of Merano and Aprica: “That year he told me: either I win or I go to make wraps with my mother”. Then he really left his mark and “children still ask me about him at school today.” Another forkful. Sweet.


“‘Where’s the mobile phone? Can’t I find it?’ – laughs as Giuseppe Martinelli, Marco’s director of the Carrera and Mercatone Uno laughs -. Then, a noise. We were driving to an awards ceremony. He had forgotten his mobile phone on the bonnet, we lost it along the way “. “Nobody calls me today. Better,” he laughed at her. He knew how to improvise and change programs in progress. Martinelli, when he talks about Pantani, does so with a voice dripping with gratitude: “My luck is to have had him as a rider, it is with him that I became a good director, he forged me”. And the paths between the two crossed very soon: “He ran into the amateurs and a former boyfriend of mine, Amadori, told me that he didn’t come off uphill. So I started to keep an eye on him. When I spoke to him for the first time in 1991 he struck me for being so bold and decisive: he already knew where he wanted to go “. And if his pupil actually reached one of the many goals he used to set himself, Martinelli soon learned to find out already from breakfast: “If he ate spaghetti and jam we were all relieved. It meant he was in a good mood and everything would be fine: when he took pasta without it, they were in trouble. Spaghetti with jam “. He smiles. Bon appetit Marco …

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“Spaghetti with jam”, we remind you this way. Happy birthday, Marco Pantani