As the 12th stage of the Giro d’Italia rolled out today for a 204-kilometer loop around Cesenatico, we stayed behind. Today’s mission was to track down the Marco Pantani museum here, devoted to the career of one of the most storied champions from this port town on the Adriatic Sea.
The Spazio Pantani is located in the train depot part of town — whose planning is loosely linked to Leonardo de Vinci — near a picturesque canal.
The collection inside of the museum is nothing less than the various and sundry jewels of Pantani’s storied career.
“We opened in 2007,” said Serena Boschetti, one of the staff members. “And it has been a real success.”
While the location in the train station is part of a cooperation with the city of Cesenatico, the collection is largely that of Pantani himself, and it is donated by his family. It is undoubtedly the most complete collection of Pantani memorabilia on earth and is likely one of the most complete collections of any cyclist’s material in existence.
“You know, as long as I knew Marco, at every level that we raced at, he seemed to knew that he was going to be a big champion,” remembers his longtime teammate and friend Andrea Agostini. “There was just no doubt in his head.” And Pantani seemingly collected everything related to his career, documenting every step.
There are real prizes at the Spazio Pantani, like the champion’s first racing bike. A locally-built Vicini bicycle is a 13-kilo bike that barely fit the 12-year-old hopeful when he first started riding. The seat post is buried in the downtube in an effort for a young Pantani to simply fit on a bike that was too big for him. The Vicini was no high-end racing machine and it included no-name components. And, in fact, the freewheel only had three cogs on it.
But despite the near primitive appearance of Pantani’s first bike, it did not prohibit him from winning numerous races as the generous display of trophies around the bike attest.
With Pantani’s results on the rise, the quality of his bicycles improved, too. Also on hand at the museum were all of his professional bikes, from elegant Carrera bikes to the Wilier bike which he used when he won on the Alpe d’Huez in the 1997 Tour de France, and his yellow and celeste Bianchi bikes.
Jerseys from all aspects of his career can also be found — from his very first jersey when he raced for the local G.C. Fausto Coppi to his Maglia Rosa and Maillot Jaune from his 1998 victories in the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France. And virtually all of his trophies are present, including his very first awards through his Giro and Tour victories.
And there were newspaper clippings from around the world recounting his many victories, but also lows like his expulsion from the 1999 Giro d’Italia on the heels of an adverse hematocrit level in his blood.
But it was clear that the Spazio Pantani is devoted to celebrating the life and career of Cesenatico’s number one son. And in that regard, the museum is a real success. Visitors can take their time, and leaf through scrapbooks of his career. And there are wonderful additional documents including all of his Italian cycling federation racing licenses and his frame geometry diagrams.
“Thanks to his family, the Spazio Pantani has been a real success,” says Boschetti. “And we have over 110,000 visitors every year. Cesenatico is a real vacation town in the summer. So people come here to relax, ride and go to the beaches. And the Spazio Pantani is a logical stop.”