In the lead up to the Giro d’Italia, Rapha has launched a memorial jersey to the race’s most charismatic winner of recent years: Marco Pantani.
The Pantani Jersey – maglia rosa pink – is based on the British label’s super lightweight jersey. It’s a technical piece peppered with graphics to celebrate the iconic rider, known as il pirata, who sensationally won the Giro and Tour de France double in 1998, and got kicked off the race in 1999 for a high haematocrit reading. On Valentine’s Day, 2004, after a troublesome comeback in which he was wracked by depression, he was found dead from a cocaine overdose in a hotel room.
A percentage from the sale of each Rapha jersey will go to the Pantani Foundation, which was set up by his mum Tonina to help troubled teens get into cycling. There's also a message from her sewn onto the inside of the jersey.
Besides releasing the jersey to commemorate the sad anniversary, Rapha also screened the trailer of the film Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist, a film documentary which is poised for a poised for a UK-wide cinema release on 16 May.
Given that Pantani is widely suspected of using EPO to win, and Rapha sponsors Team Sky, Simon Mottram, who founded Rapha in 2004, explained the rationale behind marking the life of Pantani. In a Q&A on the website, Mottram says he was a fan of Pantani for the panache and style he brought to racing.
He added: “We’re not ignoring the fact that he doped, but we’re instead heralding the way he animated road racing in the 1990s. The drama and entertainment Pantani provided is what we all watch racing for.
“It is only by working with Team Sky and telling stories from the sport’s current generation of riders and organisations that we can help move things forward. But Rapha exists to celebrate and perpetuate road racing, and Pantani’s story is one that I think is worth remembering, discussing and commemorating.”
This year, the Giro proper will mark one of Pantani’s greatest moments with a 217km stage that finishes on Plan di Montecampione. In 1998, Pantani repeatedly attacked his pink jersey rival Pavel Tonkov on the slopes before finally pulling away as they neared the summit.
The Pantani jersey is available with a matching bandana and costs £130/US$210.
Visit Rapha's website for more details.