When cycling fans think about the greatest and the most spectacular performances of Il Pirata, Oropa '99 usually comes to mind in the top 3, if not the first. The first event which brought that day straight into cycling's history books happened before hitting the difficult part of the climb, with 10 km remaining. The maglia rosa, Pantani, alone, working at his bike at the side of the road is showed from the helicopter. "Salto di catena!". This is the reason according to the quite nervous Italian commentators. Indeed, apparently the chain blocked when Marco tried to change gears.
30 seconds are lost, not quite the scenario Mercatone Uno envisaged for this day. Soon after, Pantani's guard stopped and waited for him. Garzelli, Podenzana, Borgheresi, Zaina and Velo, in this exact order, managed to deliver their leader to the back of the front group after an extremely furious chase. None of the Giro rivals waited for Pantani though, at the front of the race it was full-gas, no looking back. Micelli, Gotti, Heras and Jalabert upped the pace to a very high speed. But Pantani went even faster, much faster. With 3 kilometers remaining to the top, he flies past all of them. Something unseen.
Passing over the finish line, Marco doesn't celebrate, not wanting to made a fool of himself. He was afraid that someone remained up front and took the win. There was no one. He caught and dropped all of them, one by one. 49 riders, according to some sources. The performance remains known as "la rimonta del secolo"(the comeback of the century). Just like in most of the cases with Il Pirata attacking, he set the all-time record of the ascent of Santuario di Oropa. Just a little more than 17 minutes, 17 minutes of emozioni and spettacolo. Grazie Pirata!
Santuario di Oropa
1999:6,7 km@8%---17:04---average speed 23.55 km/h(Marco Pantani)-RECORD
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