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Marco Pantani's 1998 Mercatone Uno Bianchi Mega Pro XL Reparto Corse

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Bianchi built Pantani's frame with double-butted aluminum tubing from Dedacciai.

Bianchi built Pantani's frame with double-butted aluminum tubing from Dedacciai.
(Image credit: Daniel Benson)
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The bottom bracket area on Pantani's bike highlights the technology of the day with a standard Italian-threaded shell surrounding a square-taper bottom bracket.

The bottom bracket area on Pantani's bike highlights the technology of the day with a standard Italian-threaded shell surrounding a square-taper bottom bracket.
(Image credit: Daniel Benson)
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Pantani's bike is fitted with dual-pivot Campagnolo brakes both front and rear, in contrast to newer versions that use a lighter single-pivot rear caliper.

Pantani's bike is fitted with dual-pivot Campagnolo brakes both front and rear, in contrast to newer versions that use a lighter single-pivot rear caliper.
(Image credit: Daniel Benson)
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The popularity of integrated brake/shift levers have made down tube stops like this mostly a thing of the past but back in the day, these Campagnolo bits were among the finest examples of the breed.

The popularity of integrated brake/shift levers have made down tube stops like this mostly a thing of the past but back in the day, these Campagnolo bits were among the finest examples of the breed.
(Image credit: Daniel Benson)
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The modestly shaped stays are joined with TIG-welded aluminum dropouts.

The modestly shaped stays are joined with TIG-welded aluminum dropouts.
(Image credit: Daniel Benson)
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These chain stays would look relatively small as compared to modern carbon bikes but that didn't stop Pantani from flying up the mountainsides.

These chain stays would look relatively small as compared to modern carbon bikes but that didn't stop Pantani from flying up the mountainsides.
(Image credit: Daniel Benson)
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The cockpit consists of a non-oversized alloy bar and TIG-welded alloy stem - both by ITM.

The cockpit consists of a non-oversized alloy bar and TIG-welded alloy stem - both by ITM.
(Image credit: Daniel Benson)
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Few bikes are more easily identified simply by their colors than Pantani's Mercatone Uno Bianchi.

Few bikes are more easily identified simply by their colors than Pantani's Mercatone Uno Bianchi.
(Image credit: Daniel Benson)
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The 170mm-long Campagnolo Record cranks are fitted with enormous 44/54T chainrings.

The 170mm-long Campagnolo Record cranks are fitted with enormous 44/54T chainrings.
(Image credit: Daniel Benson)
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Bianchi's Mega Pro down tube profile started out round at the head tube then switched to a slight teardrop shape in the middle before ovalizing at the bottom bracket shell.

Bianchi's Mega Pro down tube profile started out round at the head tube then switched to a slight teardrop shape in the middle before ovalizing at the bottom bracket shell.
(Image credit: Daniel Benson)
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A Time carbon fork is used up front.

A Time carbon fork is used up front.
(Image credit: Daniel Benson)
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The polished alloy Campagnolo Electron front hub includes a central grease port for easy servicing.

The polished alloy Campagnolo Electron front hub includes a central grease port for easy servicing.
(Image credit: Daniel Benson)
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The Campagnolo Electron wheels use box-section alloy rims for light weight and a smooth ride - perfect characteristics for a wispy climber like Pantani.

The Campagnolo Electron wheels use box-section alloy rims for light weight and a smooth ride - perfect characteristics for a wispy climber like Pantani.
(Image credit: Daniel Benson)
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Marco Pantani (Mercatone Uno) rode his custom Bianchi to victory in both the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia in 1998.

Marco Pantani (Mercatone Uno) rode his custom Bianchi to victory in both the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia in 1998.
(Image credit: Daniel Benson)
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This head tube badge is hardly necessary as an identifier given the classic celeste paint.

This head tube badge is hardly necessary as an identifier given the classic celeste paint.
(Image credit: Daniel Benson)
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Nine-speed Campagnolo Record Ergopower levers are mounted low on the bars.

Nine-speed Campagnolo Record Ergopower levers are mounted low on the bars.
(Image credit: Daniel Benson)
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Pantani's machine - and his memory - live on in a corner of Bianchi's private museum.

Pantani's machine - and his memory - live on in a corner of Bianchi's private museum.
(Image credit: Daniel Benson)
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Pantani applied the power through a pair of Time Equipe Mag pedals.

Pantani applied the power through a pair of Time Equipe Mag pedals.
(Image credit: Daniel Benson)
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Where's the carbon? Back in the mid-90s, forged aluminum was the material of choice in most situations.

Where's the carbon? Back in the mid-90s, forged aluminum was the material of choice in most situations.
(Image credit: Daniel Benson)
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The Electron rims bear no machined sidewalls and the stainless steel spokes are secured with brass nipples.

The Electron rims bear no machined sidewalls and the stainless steel spokes are secured with brass nipples.
(Image credit: Daniel Benson)
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Pantani's trademark attacking style and bandana earned him one of the most memorable nicknames in cycling.

Pantani's trademark attacking style and bandana earned him one of the most memorable nicknames in cycling.
(Image credit: Daniel Benson)
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This isn't just a production bike emblazoned in team livery and with a rider's name on it - it was a full custom build made just for Pantani.

This isn't just a production bike emblazoned in team livery and with a rider's name on it - it was a full custom build made just for Pantani.
(Image credit: Daniel Benson)
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The round seat tube looks decidedly traditional as compared to modern aero shapes.

The round seat tube looks decidedly traditional as compared to modern aero shapes.
(Image credit: Daniel Benson)
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The titanium mast on the Campagnolo Record seatpost is topped by an elegant setback forged alloy head.

The titanium mast on the Campagnolo Record seatpost is topped by an elegant setback forged alloy head.
(Image credit: Daniel Benson)
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ITM's blocky Big One stem was a popular choice back in the late-90s.

ITM's blocky Big One stem was a popular choice back in the late-90s.
(Image credit: Daniel Benson)
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Some things never change: Vittoria's Corsa EVO CX tubular is a top choice among today's pros, just as its predecessor was back in the day.

Some things never change: Vittoria's Corsa EVO CX tubular is a top choice among today's pros, just as its predecessor was back in the day.
(Image credit: Daniel Benson)
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The top tube is essentially round from end to end.

The top tube is essentially round from end to end.
(Image credit: Daniel Benson)

Marco Pantani's Mercatone Uno Bianchi Mega Pro XL Reparto Corse was tailor-made for the wispy climber's attacking style and slight build and epitomizes the cycling technology of the day. The custom-built bike was light, stiff enough, and crafted to perfection and ultimately carried 'Il Pirata' to the top step of both the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia in 1998, thus more than proving its worth and earning a firm place in cycling history.

Bianchi's Reparto Corse race shop built the custom frame to Pantani's exact specifications, using a lightweight Dedacciai doubled-butted 7000-series shaped alloy tubeset, a very slightly sloping geometry, and a relatively generous head tube to suit the Italian's aggressive in-the-drops climbing style. Convention was the rule back then, rather than the exception, with a standard threaded bottom bracket shell, non-integrated 1" head tube, telescoping 27.2mm seat tube, and well-proven tube shapes that ventured only slightly away from round in select areas. Needless to say, aerodynamics was barely even a concern a decade ago outside of time trials.

Aluminum was the material of choice throughout for its predictable durability, from the beautifully polished Campagnolo Record drivetrain and dual-pivot brake calipers to the tubular ITM Big One stem and standard-diameter handlebar – and even the Campagnolo Electron tubular wheels. Looking shockingly minimal in comparison to currently fashionable deep-section carbon, the Electron's box-section rims were ideally suited to a rider of Pantani's nature: they had low inertia for rapid accelerations, they were comfortable over the long haul for such a light rider, and they were easily serviceable with grease injection ports front and rear, readily replaceable components and a tubular tire bed that offered a more reliable bond than carbon.

More exotic materials can still be found, though in limited quantities. Carbon fiber was used for the Time fork and 9-speed Record Ergopower levers – though this may have been a post-season change as most race photos from the time show alloy ones – the Time Equipe Pro pedals sported magnesium bodies, and titanium was used in the seatpost mast and rear cogs.

Though not super-stiff as compared to today's carbon fiber machines, Pantani's bike was undeniably light, even by modern standards. Total weight was just 6.96kg (15.34lb), including the bottle cage and pedals.

That light weight obviously helped Pantani up the mountain but somewhat surprising is the massive gearing he used to do so. The cassette spread is a fairly standard 11-23T but the chainrings measure a comparatively enormous 54/44T – something more commonly found on a time trial bike but assuming they're period-correct, perhaps still appropriate to Pantani's out-of-the-saddle climbing style.

Aside from today's crop of hyper-customized machines, personalized touches on Pantani's bike were more subdued – and arguably in better taste. There's the usual name on the top tube but also the custom embroidered Flite saddle from then-sponsor Selle Italia – not to mention the trademark single bottle cage as opposed to the more common two.

Pantani's life outside of cycling sadly was dark enough that it ultimately consumed him in a lonely hotel room almost exactly six years ago. Though his career was also clouded with controversy in its later years, legions of fans still prefer to remember him for his emphatic performances on the bike – this bike, which now resides in the Santini factory in Bergamo, Italy – and will continue to honor his memory as one of the greatest Italian cyclists of all time.

Complete bike specifications: