At the start of the Grenoble - Les 2 Alpes stage( 15th stage of the 85th Tour de France ), Marco was very concentrated: the short time trial represented the penultimate occasion to win the race he loved most. He had to invent something for himself. On the general classification he shared the 3rd place with Jalabert, outdistanced by 3’01” from Ullrich’s yellow jersey and 1’50” from Julich.
He looked at the leaden and rainy sky which promised an entirely rainy day and he thought of his friend Gaul’s enterprise, who on a similar day, forty years earlier, had made sure of the Tour. He knew that Charly was waiting to hug him at Les 2 Alpes, in that arrival resort which he would have wanted to conquer during the Giro d’Italia ’94.
In that whirl of thoughts that Marco knew how to move on an artist’s brush, he met Alfredo Martini. The old helmsman, brought to him Mottet’s suggestion: "...if you want the yellow one, you must attack on the hardest point of the Galibier about 5 kilometres from the top...".
Marco nodded; it was what he had felt too.
The Pirate’s stage was a struggle up to that point.
On the Croix de Fer, Serrano, Sciandri, Massi, Bourguignon, Farazijn and Rinero overtook him, but Marco a bit annoyed, because of a rather insignificant slip, did not shift from his camouflage.
The same applied to the Telegraphe, where Jalabert had yielded.
Modus, who kept up also for half of the legendary Galibier where, with the fugitives still well ahead, from the small group with the yellow jersey, Escartin had come out. Only after a burst by Leblanc to which the same Ullrich had answered to, the Pirate’s outline peeped out with a bandana on his head and sunglasses. Not even a hundred metres later, Marco took off digging emptiness. Once he finished the first run, he turned and saw the outline of Leblanc and thought of waiting for him, but notice his slowness, took off again and for those who were left behind there was no more hope. One after the other, he overtook all the racers ahead of him. At the top of the Galibier ( roof of the Tour ) he was alone. Ullrich, not yet in crisis, came to the top at 2’50”. At the end of the ascent and in spite of a stop to wear an overcoat, Pantani ( who in the meantime could avail himself of the precious company of Rinero, Massi, Jimenez, Escartin and Serrano ) was virtually a yellow jersey.
Climbing up towards the finishing line of Les 2 Alpes, he was forced to leave his adventure mates: a Legend and the jersey he loved most were waiting for him. Julich arrived 5’43” later; Ullrich, in full crisis ended at 8’57”.
The Tour hugged Marco Pantanì.