Bittersweet Anniversary: Marco Pantani remembered, two years on

By Tim Maloney, European Editor

Two years ago on Saint Valentine's Day, Marco Pantani was found dead in room 5D in the Le Rose residence hotel in Rimini, Italy. On Sunday, February 12, many of his supporters and fans, former teammates and his family gathered in Cervia, near Cesenatico to remember Pantani with affection and grief. An evocative photo exhibit of Marco Pantani's career by renowned Italian cycling photographer Roberto Bettini was on show in one of the four large tents erected around Piazza Garabaldi, with other events including a commemorative "pedalata" with 200 riders including his loyal former team-mate and friend Robby Conti that stopped at Pantani's grave in Cesenatico and passed by his house.

After the ride, a memorial mass for Pantani was said in Cesenatico, with many noted attendees from cycling, including Conti, Gianni Bugno and Marco's remaining family; Mama Tonina, sister Manola and his father Ferdinando, who had bitter words to say after the service. "In these occasions we usually feel a great deal of pain and also anger for all the injustices that Marco and our family had to suffer. But plenty of people are here with us to bear witness and provide us with support and this is important, because it shows that Marco Pantani was right."

As for the inquest surrounding the death of Pantani, five individuals have been brought in front of the court in Rimini. Three have pleaded out to drug trafficking charges; Fabio Mirandossa, Cirio Veneruso and Ramirez Cueva have received prison sentences ranging up to five years (Mirandossa). Fabio Carlino and Elena Korovina have declared their innocence and have refused to plea bargain and their trial starts in Rimini in early May.

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