Pantani to return in southern Spanish tour

Former Tour de France and Giro d'Italia champion Marco Pantani, who has not ridden since being disqualified from this year's Giro, plans to return to competitive cycling in February's regional Tour of Andalucia, it was reported today.

Former Tour de France and Giro d'Italia champion Marco Pantani, who has not ridden since being disqualified from this year's Giro, plans to return to competitive cycling in February's regional Tour of Andalucia, it was reported today.

"Marco's main aim is the Giro. He wants to win to get revenge for what happened," the Spanish daily El Mundo cited Pantani's Mercatone team director Giuseppe Martinelli as saying.

According to Martinelli, Pantani will compete in the Mallorca Challenge early next year but will make his official return in the Feb. 13-17 Vuelta a Andalucia regional tour.

Pantani, who won the Italian and French tours in 1998, has not competed since June, when he was disqualified from the Giro because of a higher-than-allowed red-blood cell count while in the lead late in the race and poised to win.

He was to return to competitive cycling in the Vuetla a Espana in September, but withdrew less than three weeks before the start claiming he was still unprepared for a major race.

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