Ever since the Giro d’Italia first arrived at Campo Imperatore in 1971, with stage win of Spaniard Vicente Lopez-Carril and the Maglia Rosa on the shoulders of Ugo Colombo, the Abruzzo finish line has traditionally been included in the first part of the Giro d’Italia, Stage 9 at latest, as in 2018, and for this reason it has often featured one of the first face-to-face battles among the GC men.
On the Gran Sasso d’Italia, riders are still relatively fresh, with more questions than answers about their condition and a burning desire to gain a few seconds, but at the same time the fear of uncovering their cards too early.
And the eighth stage of the 1999 Corsa Rosa, starting in Pescara and finishing in a still snow-covered Campo Imperatore, was no exeption. All eyes that day were on Marco Pantani, who had made history the year before by winning both the Giro and the Tour. Everyone was waiting for him on the first real uphill finish of that edition.
Although rumours had it that he was still far from his best form, the star from Cesenatico put everyone to the test with a series of accelerations and progressions in the last 2,500 metres of the climb, dropping his adversaries one by one, with Ivan Gotti being the last to give way. Pantani gained a gap of more than 20″ over his rivals, going on to take the Maglia Rosa: it was the first of his four seals in that Giro, as well as the very last, sadly, of his career.