2000 Lance Armstrong v Marco Pantani
A genuine wheel-to-wheel rivalry now. Fear not though, scandal fans, this one also got personal! During the 2002 race, the now disgraced American Armstong and the Italian Pantani were battling it out over a number of stages. Sustained attacks by both men made for an intriguing battle that is still spoken about by fans of le Tour today.
While racing on Mont Ventoux in the Pyrenees, both Armstrong and Pantani left the rest of the field in their wake as they fought for number 1 spot. However, Armstrong appeared to ease off towards the end of the stage, leaving Pantini to capitalise and take the victory.
At the following press conference, Armstrong bemoaned his own performance, and suggested that he gifted his rival the win. Then things got personal as Armstrong called the Italian “Elefantino” – meaning baby elephant – referring to the riders large ears.
“This rivalry was everything a Tour de France fan could want”
Pantani hit back in the French press, suggesting that Armstrong was trying to provoke him during the race, adding “If Armstong thinks the tour is over, he’s wrong… he hasn’t finished with me.” He later suggested “Pantani does not need Armstrong to give him a victory”, referring to himself in third person like every good sulking sportsman should.
Again, Armstong returned fire, suggesting that Pantani’s remarks were “very disappointing to me. I thought he had more class than that.” adding “Elefantino has tomorrow… It’s probably the last day for him.”
This rivalry was everything a Tour de France fan could want. A battle on the mountains, and a slanging match in the press, adding fuel to a fight between two of the sports heavyweights of the time.