pantani book
Marco - sadly missed

Marco Pantani - The legend of a tragic champion

This is a must have for all Pantani fans and certainly a telling message to any budding sportsmen and women out there. Marco Pantani is undoubtably a legend and a life with plenty of incident. Even before his death he had entered road racing folklore as the rider who attacked, and kept attacking. He dropped the world's best riders time after time and eventually won both the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia. All of Italy worshipped him, he oozed style and panache so the Tifosi (Italian fans) took to him easily and his team mates were utterly devoted.

This book is the work of several well known cycling journalists, excellently edited by the VeloNews Editorial Director, John Wilcockson. The story comes straight from the people closest to him and the interview with his former girl friend, Christina Jonsson, shows he was a man who was complicated as well as aggressive and difficult to live with.

The book also illustrates how Marco had his fair share of career threatening injuries, misfortunes and demons. His leg fracture after crashing head-on into a car is positively horrific. His bust at the Giro (unfit to ride following an 'over 50%' haematocrit test) on the eve of victory was a massive blow for the diminutive climber. Then his life went into freefall. The cocaine addiction, how he tried to quit, the parties and his final few days... as a counterpoint to Armstrong's happy ending, this is the saddest of tragic stories.

His relationship with Armstrong was never smooth and although their spat was resolved they remained rivals who clearly feared and respected each other. It's an interesting sub-plot to Marco's personal life, which sounded as troubled as his professional one. It's certainly a 'fly on the wall' account and he certainly had plenty to say, as he said of Armstrong after (perhaps his finest display of riding) winning at Courchevel in the 2000 Tour:

"I wanted to stick it to Lance, because I hadn't stomached the breakaway he dished out the other day on the Izoard. I wouldn't be happy going home from the Tour without having succeeded in dropping the American"

Although I couldn't put this book down, I was left feeling that there has just a little more to tell. Time will probably bring out more of this, all too short, life. It's well worth reading though, two or three times so far... Like all the stories of champion cyclists (Armstrong, Obree, Coppi and Merckx certainly spring to mind) it would make a great film, you couldn't make up stuff like this!

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ISBN 1-931382-65-4