The tenth anniversary of Marco Pantani’s death begins with the ending, again.
Pantani, the last person to win both the Giro and the Tour, died of cocaine poisoning in a hotel room in the Adriatic resort of Rimini at the age of 34.
And all the junk that lead to his suicide has had us hurtling towards Feb 14th, 2014, with weeks of slow baking thoughts from all media points regarding Marco Pantani. The loss of him, and the reflections on what he gave to cycling. how he is putrid for some, while emblematic of us all. And so on. When I think of the fulcrum that he has become (the poster child of our coming of age re doping), and as hindsight has revised his effect, the following video remix of him crushing the entire field on stage 15 of the 1999 Giro pretty much sums up the awesome that keeps Marco Pantani alive in our cycling minds.
When I watch that piece of excellence in doping, it is the music that makes me miss those supercharged days. How innocent we – the fans – were. Yes. I know.
As bleak as it is to say, in regards to this era of doping allegations and eventual tragedy, i still have a love affair with the 90s when it comes to pro-cycling. Virenque, Festina, Pantani, they are still all proper dudes and hard men regardless of what r-EPO they were smashing in.
It’s this ‘view from the sofa’ though that seems to be holding the sport back. The spectacle out-weights the ethics in regards to what drugs the peloton is on.
And as the week has gone by, and especially today – February 14th, the day of his suicide ten years ago – the internet has come alive with recitations and remembrances of his time and legacy, the sorrow of his choices, the amazing abilities he possessed regardless of doping.
Snakehawk wrote some words that consolidate much of how we know him today, after all the mess has been cleaned up as much as possible, this is as clear as my opinion on the matter needs to be.
Snakehawk on Marco Pantani then and now:
The divide is razor sharp: there are lovers and there are haters. “He was a cheater” versus “he was a phenomenon.” We do not fuck around; it is known that “There is incontrovertible evidence that Marco’s entire career was based on [EPO] abuse.” (Matt Rendell) It’s not a surprise. We know the supermen ate magic blood. We know. We also know Pantani attacked recklessly, and you could get bent trying to hang. (Alpe du’Huez record.) His ears created pneumatic eddies that no man could occupy. Telegraphe/Galibier 1998: aufwiedersehen, Janni (His blood kept mosquitos out of Italy for 10 years.) Watch it again. His indomitable competitive spirit rendered him a timeless victor with peloton-gnashing tendencies, rEPO or not. The man hated the victory handed to him by Armstrong. The man cherished the victories he earned on his own. With reverence, in the glow of our sport’s spectacle, expecting the best but demanding humanity, we chose to look past the evils of glowing men, Pantani included. The glances cast back as pedal kicks wrung unfathomable wattages from screaming spokes; the drama of men, mere men, slamming themselves full of fear and drugs, choking back the symptoms of inadequacy, or as most of us know it: humanity. And what do you get for these braveries? A signature saddle, duh.
We’re talking about a guy who devoured vertical like a feral child at buffet. Marco sprinted up the beastly grades in the rain, in the drops. He was a giant, no way around it. But the wind could only push on the back of his giant ears for so long. Marco may have ripped victory from the grasp of Jan Ullrich in 1998, but his own card was ripped in ’99’s Giro d’Italia for packing too many hematocrits in his musette d’luncheon. Thus began the decline. His psychological thirst for a win was never again to be quenched. His black mark stuck. And mustn’t it have stung all the worse to see a lying armadillo pomp his way to the top, over and over again? The fallacies fell from the son of Texas like candy from the caravan. All of the world and their craving for a newer, cleaner tour said Facque you to drugs, YES! to lies. The were just eating them up, eating them up. In the shadows of that carnival of bullshit, the spirit of Pantani rotted.
Well, it’s sad. He was a marvel in our sport. He was the Pirate. He was a human man. He was Superissimo. We are remembering you always, Marco. Grazie for the performance.
That is it, in essence, although much can and will continue to be said of him and this troubled passion of ours. But what of this legacy? It is still relevant. And it is still of value. It is feature length.
More Sources. More insights: