With the Ardennes season upon us, that means climbing and then some for one day fans, we thought we’d pay homage to one of the best climbers in history.
We decided to take a look back at one of the most blistering rides in cycling history. Marco Pantani taking on Alpe d’Huez at the 1997 Tour de France.
Although there’s some debate about who’s actually set the fastest time up the legendary climb, Il Pirata’s effort of 37 minutes 35 seconds in 1997 is generally recognised as the fastest.
Pantani’s time was so good that not even Lance Armstrong could beat it during the individual time trial up Alpe d’Huez at the 2004 Tour. Pantani had already ridden nearly 200kms before his attempt in 1997.
As you’d expect, Pantani won that stage and then just two days later repeated the feat with an equally impressive ride up to Morzine on Stage 15.
The 1997 Tour was one of the most ‘performance-enhanced’ ever, however. The top 3 times from the stage – Pantani, Jan Ullrich and Richard Virenque – all feature in the top 10 best times ever up Alpe d’Huez. Unfortunately, all three of those riders were subsequently caught up in doping scandals.
So let’s ignore Pantani’s rather chequered history when it comes to allegations of doping for a few minutes and just enjoy what is quite simply some ridiculous climbing on a bicycle.
Earlier in the year Pantani’s history was bought to light once more when a case brought forward by his mother arguing his death was a murder was quashed when an investigation confirmed the Italian rider died after ingesting a cocktail of drugs.
Regardless of what happened, this moment of cycling brilliance from Il Pirata will be forever remembered.