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Mourners pay Pantani final tribute

Marco Pantani's casket is taken into church in Cesenatico
Marco Pantani's casket is taken into church in Cesenatico

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CESENATICO, Italy -- Hundreds of mourners have gathered outside a church to pay a final tribute to Marco Pantani in his Italian home town.

The casket containing the body of one of Italy's biggest heroes was brought to Cesenatico, a seaside town about 20km from Rimini, the Adriatic beach resort where the cyclist was found dead in a hotel room on Saturday.

An autopsy on Monday found that Pantani died from severe swelling from edema, a build up of fluid in his brain and lungs, although what caused the edema is still unclear.

Outside the church, where fans showed up for the wake, Pantani's mother Tonina yelled at reporters and camera crews: "Go away! Go away! You don't have any right, you don't have any respect. You killed him, leave us alone in our grief!"

Since his death, a fierce debate has been waged in Italian media regarding the pressures that Pantani faced from the press and the doping accusations he faced.

Coroner Dr. Giuseppe Fortuni said further tests were necessary and that the investigation into the death of the 1998 Tour de France and Giro d'Italia winner would continue. Test results were expected within two weeks.

Pantani, 34, was found dead on the floor of his room at the Le Rose apartment-hotel in Rimini. About 10 bottles of tranquilizers of four different brands were found in the room, some of them empty, others just open, police revealed.

Pantani had suffered from depression in the past, but prosecutors have played down the possibility of suicide, a speculation in the Italian media. Authorities said they will not be drawn out on the cause until the investigation is completed.

Tormented by doping accusations in recent seasons, Pantani spent several weeks in a clinic specializing in treatment for depression and drug addiction last summer.

Meanwhile, Giro organizers have announced that a mountain stage would be named for the climbing specialist in each future edition of the race.

Pantani's funeral on Wednesday is to be open to friends and relatives only.


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