When a frightened white cat darted across the road in front the peloton descending the Valico di Chiunzi toward Maiori, Enrico Zaina and four other riders took a tumble.
That group of unlucky riders included Marco Pantani, who had joined the Mercatone Uno team in the 1997 season.
There was no question that at that moment of the eighth stage, the Giro d’Italia was over for him, despite his team mates escorting him to the finish line at Cava dei Tirreni.
And so it was that bad luck continued dogging him, once again in the descent, as it had in Pino Torinese twenty months earlier. Mercatone Uno continued the Giro, completing the race out of a sense of honour, with Stefano Garzelli placing ninth in the overall ranking. But, the team hadn’t been created with ninth place in mind.
And so, they had twenty-eight days between the end of the Giro d’Italia and the beginning of the Tour de France to turn things around.
On July 14th, after Col du Soulor, Col du Tourmalet and Col d’Aspin, Marco Pantani finished third at Loudenvielle, in the heart of the Pyrenees.
Then on July 15th, he came in second with Richard Virenque at Andorra Arcalis, a minute and fifteen seconds behind the winner, Jan Ullrich, earning him fifth place in the overall standings.
On July 19th, Marco Pantani won at Alpe d’Huez, putting in a record time for the climb.
And on July 21st, he won once more at Morzine.
The Tour de France concluded on the Champs Elysées on July 27th and Pantani mounted the podium beneath the Arc de Triomphe, in third place behind Ullrich and Virenque.
He had turned around his stroke of bad luck in Maiori with a prodigious ride that was a prelude to great things.
Pantani’s yellow, red and blue bicycle bearing the Wilier Triestina trademark accompanied him through good and bad time in 1997, at Alpe d’Huez, Morzine and Paris, as well as on the Amalfi Coast.
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