By VeloNews Interactive wire services, Copyright AFP2001
Marco Pantani was so devastated by missing this year’s Tour de France that he couldn’t bear to watch as Lance Armstrong cycled to his history-making triumph, he told an Italian newspaper.
“I didn’t see any of the stages of the Tour,” Pantani, who won the Tour de France in 1998 when the race was devastated by allegations of drug taking, said.
“Being excluded from the Tour was the worst thing to happen. We found out just before the start of the Giro and it was a terrible feeling,” said the Italian rider, known as the Pirate, who is currently riding in the Tour of Castille in Spain.
Pantani’s Mercatone Uno team were not invited to take part in the Tour this year and the official reason was that their results had not been good enough.
However, many inside the sport believe that the team was left out because of continuing suspicions over drug taking. Earlier this year, Pantani received a suspended three-month jail sentence for doping. He has also been under investigation in Italy following a drug test that forced him out of the Giro d’Italia in 1999.
His teammate Fabiano Fontanelli was forced out of the Tour of Flanders when a test revealed a high level of hematocrit in his system.
“We have a lot of problems in the team. There is no peace and the cause of the problems was being excluded from the Tour,” Pantani said. “I cannot compete under these conditions. I will think about next year. The team needs a new director and other riders.”
American Armstrong rode to his third consecutive Tour de France title on July 29.