Besanon - Vincenzo Nibali will visit the tomb of Marco Pantani and pay homage to the Italian cycling great if he wins the Tour de France, he promised on Tuesday.
Pantani was the last Italian rider to triumph at the greatest cycling event in the world back in 1998.
Although he was subsequently disgraced after being kicked off the 1999 Giro d'Italia over doping suspicions, he remains a hero among Italian cycling fans.
"We all know Pantani's history and for me it would be an honour to be his successor," said Nibali of the troubled and tainted genius who died in 2004 of cocaine poisoning.
"Before coming here to the Tour, unfortunately I wasn't able to be at a presentation where his mother gave me Marco's yellow jersey, which I keep at home.
"I promised her that if all goes well I'll go to visit Marco."
Pantani was a huge fan favourite in the 1990s due to his aggressive and attacking style.
Known as Il Pirata (the pirate), he was a climb specialist and was the last rider to win both the Giro and Tour in the same year.
He was set to defend his Giro title in 1999 when he was kicked off the race just before the end after testing positive for irregular blood levels.
His haematocrit level was higher than is allowed, suggesting he had been using the banned blood booster EPO.
Although he never actually tested positive for banned substances, accusations of EPO use dogged him throughout his career.
After retiring, he suffered from serious depression and eventually overdosed on cocaine.
Nibali has already won the Vuelta Espana in 2010 and the Giro last year. If he wins the Tour this year he would join a select group of five other riders to have won all three Grand Tours.