The Italian tifosi are equally passionate when their cycling heroes rise above the clouds for victory as they are when the same demigods come crashing to earth because of a scandal. And in the recent headlining-grabbing news of Riccardo Riccò's expulsion from the 2008 Tour de France, that emotion has flowed mightily onto the pages of Italian newspapers.
Riccò's story mirrors that of his idol, the late Marco Pantani, who died of a cocaine overdose in February 2004. Pantani won the Giro d'Italia and Tour in 1998, and it was his expulsion from the 1999 Giro while in the leader's pink jersey with just 36 hours before the final stage that sent him into the abyss, never really to recover.
Riccò is cocky, too self assured and brash, and it's been the experience of Procycling Magazine's Daniel Friebe, who's interviewed 'the Cobra', that too many similarities existed between Riccò and il Pirata. Read his blog here to see what Italian newspapers wrote about Riccò and Pantani, then listen to BikeRadar's Tour podcasts.