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Memories from… Selva di Valgardena, 1998: stage win to Guerini, Maglia Rosa (the very first) to Pantani


On 2 June 1998, on Italian Republic Day, Marco Pantani wore the Maglia Rosa for the first time in his career. That same morning, before the 215 km Asiago – Selva di Valgardena stage, it would have been hard to predict that, in less than two months, the Pirate would conquer the incredible Giro d’Italia-Tour de France combo. To date, he was the last to do so.

That year, Swiss Alex Zülle seemed unbeatable, firmly in the Maglia Rosa after his great time trial and uphill performances, which had allowed him to approach the Dolomites with more than two minutes on all rivals and 3’48” on Pantani. However, the might Swiss was brutally pushed back by the slopes of the Marmolada and the Passo Sella, the highest peak of that Giro.

On the Marmolada, the first to attack was Russian Pavel Tonkov, second in the GC, while Pantani, who was wearing the Maglia Verde jersey of best climber, set off a little later. That was not one of his famous, decisive and irresistible sprints, but was more of a slow and steady progression that only Giuseppe Guerini, in the shape of his life, was able to keep up with. The Pirate had not even taken off his bandana, which he usually did before placing an attack.

The two caught all the fugitives on the Marmolada, sprinted towards the summit of the Passo Sella and then to the finish line in Selva di Valgardena. The epilogue is easy to guess, stage to Guerini, Maglia Rosa to Pantani. Tonkov came in with a delay of 2’04‘’, Zülle arrived at 4’39’’. In the following days, the Pirate would reinforce his leadership, reaching Milan in triumph.


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