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Sal Ruibal wrote that note and posted it under his Nick Verstain alias. Why? I asked. Sal replied
At my first Tour in 2000, Lance had a press conference at the first mountain stage. A member of Lance’s entourage asked me to ask Lance a question about Pantani calling himself The Pirate (Il Pirata) instead of Elephantino. I did and Lance launched into what was a prepared rant about how you can’t give yourself a nickname, it just happens. And he kept referring to Pantani as Elephantino. As I was new to the European peloton, I didn’t know that Pantani hated being called that and was enraged about Lance’s insult. Pantani got psyched out about it and that affected his performance in the Tour. There’s more to it, but the gist is that after Pantani killed himself, I felt that I had contributed to his pain by setting him up to be humiliated. The poem is my way of making him human again, explaining what he couldn’t say while alive.
Whoa. Wait. Sal was there? Wasn’t that the no gifts era and the next day Pantani rode Lance off his wheel?
Yes, but that was Lance’s intent. Then he folded on the Col de Joux Plane, lost too much time and left the Tour.
No gifts for Pantani.…