Lance Armstrong invited to Pantani Gran Fondo to celebrate 1998 Giro-Tour double

Pantani's mother hoping for reconciliation with her son's bitter rival

Lance Armstrong has been invited to the Marco Pantani memorial Gran Fondo ride to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Pantani's Giro d'Italia-Tour de France double victory and perhaps reconcile with Pantani's family.

According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Alberto Contador, Jan Ullrich, Pavel Tonkov and Miguel Indurain have also been invited to take part in a 'Champions Ride' on the day before the Gran Fondo, with the organisers also hoping Bradley Wiggins will ride.

Armstrong and Pantani often clashed in races and via the media but, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Pantani's mother is now keen to meet Armstrong, with the Gran Fondo suggested as the right place for reconciliation.

Armstrong was gradually returning to racing from testicular cancer when Pantani won the Giro-Tour double in 1998, and the Texan then won the 1999 Tour de France as Pantani was fighting to clear his name following his disqualification from that year's Giro for returning a high haematocrit in a blood test on the penultimate day. In 2000, the two clashed at the Tour and fell out very publicly after Armstrong apparently eased up to let Pantani win on Mount Ventoux.

Their different characters and backgrounds, as well as the lack of a common language, meant that their feud was never resolved before Pantani died from a cocaine overdose in 2004.

Armstrong was banned for life after an investigation by the United States Anti-Doping Agency and so cannot attend UCI races in an official capacity. He has been invited to speak at a pre-Tour of Flanders event this spring and is likely be at the race as a guest despite a protest from new UCI president David Lappartient.

Armstrong wrote a comment piece about Pantani for Cyclingnews on the 10th anniversary of his death in 2014, saying: "If I was the carpenter, then he was the artist. He had all the panache in the world, all the panache you could fit into a small climber, and I, if I'm honest, didn't have that."

Armstrong suggested that Pantani's results should be viewed with "great appreciation and great admiration", despite strong suspicion that Pantani doped during much of his professional career.

"When you name all the other winners from those days, all the riders, he was geared up in just the same way and he still fucking won. That's going to frustrate some people to hear, but you have to remember that he came into a program and that was that," Armstrong wrote.

Basso, Ullrich, Contador and Cipollini also invited

The Granfondo Marco Pantani has been held every summer since his death but his mother Tonina has decided to develop the event even further for the 20th anniversary of his Giro-Tour double and is working with former professional rider Alessandro Vanotti.

"The first idea was to change the ride a little and add other events to include the local area. We hope to have 2000 entries, both Italians and from the rest of the world because Pantani is still a legendary figure for many people," Vanotti told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

The weekend of events will begin on Friday, August 31 with a dinner to raise funds for the Cycling For Armenia charity that helps a hospital in the country. There will be a 'Pedalata con i campioni' ride on Saturday, September 1 with the big-name former professionals and then the Gran Fondo itself on Sunday, September 2.

"Ivan Basso has already confirmed he'll attend and we hope to have Contador too, even if he's very busy. We're also going to invite Mario Cipollini," Vanotti said.

The Gran Fondo includes three distances of 73km, 107km and 145km, each visiting hills inland from Cesenatico and the Pantani memorial on the Cippo di Carpegna climb, where il Pirata often trained.

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