In the annals of sports history, few tales captivate the imagination like that of Marco Pantani. Known as “The Pirate,” the enigmatic Italian cyclist left an indelible mark on the world of cycling before meeting an untimely demise. Now, a new BBC Radio 5 Live podcast, narrated by Hugh Dennis, aims to unravel the mysteries surrounding Pantani’s life and death.

Considered by many as the greatest climbing specialist in the history of the sport, Pantani’s dominance was unparalleled. His feats on the bike cemented his status as a rock star of cycling, captivating fans around the globe. Yet, his journey was not without controversy.

Amidst the accolades, Pantani faced persistent allegations of doping, race-fixing, and corruption. These whispers followed him throughout his career, overshadowing his achievements and painting a complex portrait of the Italian national hero. However, it was the circumstances surrounding his tragic end that thrust him into a world far removed from the realm of sports.

Pantani’s life was cut short in a mysterious manner, leaving behind a void and sparking sensational claims of mafia involvement. The collision between the world of cycling and the murky underworld of organised crime sent shockwaves through the sporting community. The forthcoming podcast, titled “Pantani: Death of a Pirate,” promises to shed light on this gripping saga.

Guided by the cycling-obsessed Hugh Dennis, the podcast takes listeners on a journey from the picturesque mountains of rural Italy to the shadowy underbelly of a sport on the rise. Drawing from the insights of mafia experts, journalists, historians, police personnel, and prominent figures in the cycling world, such as Matt Rendell and Phil Liggett, the podcast delves deep into the most dramatic and tantalising question in sports history: Did the mafia orchestrate the demise of a cyclist?

Dennis, the host of the podcast, expressed his intrigue, stating, “‘Would the mafia really kill a cyclist?’ has to be one of the strangest questions ever asked in cycling… and yet, ten episodes later, here we are. Saddle in – sorry – for one of the craziest stories you’ll ever hear, about the mysterious death of one of the most incredible climbers the sport has ever seen.”

Fans eager to embark on this compelling journey can tune in to the podcast in its entirety, as it will be released as a boxset on Thursday 22 June. All episodes will be available on BBC Sounds’ Sport’s Strangest Crimes feed, ensuring a comprehensive exploration of Pantani’s life, death, and the intricate web that binds sports and organised crime.