Sport has lost one of it's great heroes. A small man in stature, Pantani proved that he could fight with the musclemen in the mountains, winning the Tour de France in 1998 with incredible displays of hill-climbing cycling. He was an inspiration to those who didn't have the power of the sprinters, but could race up hills with incredible speed and determination.
His recent years had been full of problems, amid allegations of the use of performance-enhancing drugs, but he remained popular with many, and may still have had a future in cycling, even at the age of 34. It seems he had significant personal problems too, having recently been in a clinic for depression and drug use.
It is always a terrible thing when a successful sportsman's life falls off the tracks (as so often happens), but for it to end in circumstances such as this, being found dead in a hotel room, is a devastating thing. Pantani may be gone, but he will certainly not be forgotten, and I know I'll remember his battles up the French mountains, and how I dreamed of doing that myself. As a racer, even if not as a man, he was a true great.