This, slightly strange, slightly fake, cigarette card, which I believe was home printed just to sell on ebay, displays a ‘no smoking’ symbol. It features the, slightly strange, slightly fake, Marco Pantani, who was not known for saying ‘no’ to addictive substances. A, colourful, exciting, climber, who was nicknamed ‘The Pirate’ because of his signature shaved head, goatee, earrings and bandana, Marco Pantani won both the Tour and the Giro in 1998.
Unfortunately Marco Pantani was also widely regarded as being a extravagant user of EPO, with a history of surreal Haemocrit values and bizarre medical incidents. At the time of his famous crash in the 1995 Milano-Torino, he had a Haemocrit value of 60.1%, which, I would guess, is possibly the highest value ever recorded for a major sporting figure. One lurid account likens his blood at the time to treacle.
Gradually, but relentlessly, hounded from cycling, which was the only thing he really knew, Marco Pantani died of cocaine poisoning in 2004, in the Hotel Le Rose in Rimini, at the age of 34.
Marco Pantani may have been a confused soul, but he knew he was Italian through and through - riding Campagnolo to his Tour victory.