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Marco Pantani to be remembered at special mass

Six years after his mysterious death in a hotel in Rimini, Marco Pantani will be remembered with a special mass and gathering of friends and family in his hometown of Cesenatico on the Italian Adriatico coast.

Pantani was perhaps the greatest pure climber of all time but died alone and addicted to cocaine on St Valentine's Day 2004, at the age of 34.

Pantani's audacious attacks in the mountains at the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France, his shaven head covered by a bandana and his often melancholic expression captured the hearts of millions of Italians and many more cycling fans around the world.

His career was tainted by accusations of doping and a failed haematocrit test at the 1999 Giro d'Italia. But his double success at the 1998 Giro d'Italia and Tour de France stands, and his solo attack on the Col du Galibier in the rain to take the yellow jersey in that year's Tour remains one of the greatest ever achievements in the sport.

A special memorial foundation was created by Pantani parents to remember him and has helped hundreds of young people take up cycling in Italy in recent years.

Family and friends from the Pantani Corse teams will gather for a memorial mass on Sunday morning in the church of San Giacomo, the same church in Cesenatico where thousands of people attended Pantani's funeral in 2004.

"We won't forget him. Honouring his memory means in some way keeping him alive," Pantani's father Paolo told Gazzetta dello Sport.

After the mass, flowers will be taken to Pantani's white memorial monument in the nearby cemetery by the president of the Magico Pantani supporters club and several of his former teammates.

The cemetery will stay open for an extra hour so that the expected crowds will have more time to visit the Pantani monument and remember him.

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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.