By Jonny Long
Marco Pantani's 2000 Tour de France bike has sold at auction for €66,000.
The bike was among a collection of Pantani memorabilia that sold for over €160,000 to raise funds for the 2,000 employees affected by the bankruptcy of Italian home goods store Mercatone Uno, which used to sponsor the Italian's team.
37 items were sold in total, and bought by a group of Italian businessmen headed up by Italian national coach Davide Cassani, with the collection to be donated to the Pantani museum.
The bike was the one on which Pantani beat Armstrong on Mont Ventoux and in Courchevel at the 2000 French Grand Tour, with the Cassani group outbidding a sports agent and anonymous Serie A footballer.
"It will happen on January 13, Marco's birthday. We will take it to Cesenatico to donate it to the museum run by the family," Cassani told Gazzetta dello Sport of the plan to return the items to the Pantani museum. "So everyone can admire it. The auction was not easy."
Marco Pantani and Lance Armstrong at the 2000 Tour de France (Photo by Henri Szwarc/Bongarts/Getty Images)Another bike Pantani used to train for the 2000 Sydney Olympics fetched €46,000, while a yellow and pink jersey from the 1998 French and Italian Grand Tours raised €9,5000 and €11,000 respectively.
Bids came in from all over Europe and the auction house has pledged to donate the usual 25 per cent commission to the fundraising efforts for the Mercatone Uno employees.
Pantani's 2000 Tour de France stage wins were the final two victories of his career, the Italian abandoning that Grand Tour two days after his stage 15 victory with stomach problems.
The Italian would go on to ride a further three Giri and a Vuelta a España before he passed away on February 14 in 2004, his body discovered at a hotel in Rimini, a coroner's inquest later revealing he had died of acute cocaine poisoning.
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