Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist Review

©Bettini

©Bettini

Marco Pantani was like many other cyclists: he loved cycling, he was passionate, fearless and more than anything, he wanted to win. But, he was also like no other cyclist, putting the combination of passion and determination into practice to make him the only winner of the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France in the same year, something not even Lance Armstrong attempted. But, on Valentines Day 2004 he was found dead, alone in a hotel room in Italy. Aged 34, Pantani had overdosed on cocaine after a period of depression and addiction.

With his distinctive bandana and gold earrings earning him the nickname of ‘il Pirata’ (the Pirate), Pantani’s aggressive riding as an attacking climber projected him to fame in the 1990s, with 36 professional wins, the Maillot Jaune 6 times and the Maglia Rosa 14 times in his career.

“YOU CAN’T WIN THE TOUR DE FRANCE ON MINERAL WATER”

As we’ve all come to learn, cycling in this era was, what can only be described as, a dirty sport. The Festina Affair of 1998 shone light on the behind-the-scenes activities and the depth a team would go to to make sure they were the best. The following year, Pantani was disqualified from the 1999 Giro d’Italia for a hematocrit reading of 52%, 2% above the upper limit set by the UCI to determine EPO usage, which lead to persistent allegations of doping throughout the rest of his career, leading to his subsequent mental health issues. However, Pantani was never actually found guilty of doping during his living years* and evidence as laid out in the film, suggests that his positive tests were  a result of coup within the governing bodies of the Giro d’Italia in a bid to allow other teams some glory.

“I AM QUITTING CYCLING, IT’S LIKE A MAFIA”

Having recently finished Tyler Hamilton’s ‘The Secret Race’ and part way through David Millar’s ‘Racing Through The Dark(yes, I’m a few years behind!), it’s clear that doping was the blood of the sport for many years. If you wanted to be ‘in’ with the A team and any chance of winning, you had to dope. Bradley Wiggins highlights this, stating “If you were going to survive and if you wanted to win or make a living you had to do what you were told to do.”

Fundamentally, there was a deep psychological want and need to be accepted in the peloton. Joining a pro team at the ripe age of 22 having won the ‘Girobio, the amateur version of the Giro d’Italia; I can’t help but think Pantani was coerced into believing that what he (and his team) was doing, was just part of the job. And so, when the public turned on him following doping allegations, calling him a cheat, he could feel nothing but shame. “I’ve been pressured, I’ve been humiliated” he states in a post ban interview. “Today I don’t associate cycling with winning. I associate it with terrible, terrible things that have happened to me and people close to me.” He had been let down.

This film however, isn’t about an exploration of doping in Pantani’s era, but the story of a cyclist. Interviews with his family, close friends and fellow cyclists of the peloton, depict Pantani as a humble man who loved his family and his sport.

“Marco Pantani was not a saint. Even Pantani would probably not have believed that Pantani was a saint.” Ned Boulting

Clean or not, Pantani is still today hailed a hero by many. The King of the Mountains. An intriguing story, The Accidental Death of a Cyclist provides a unique, but sad and tragic insight into a heroic cyclist and the sport of his era.

PANTANI: THE ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF A CYCLIST IN CINEMAS FROM MAY 16TH

*It’s only in 2013 that samples of Pantani’s samples were retested from the 1998 Tour de France and found positive for EPO.

Hayley Davies

Hayley Davies

Writer

Riding since Feb 2011 Hayley is a 30 year old female who loves adventures. If she’s not on one of her many bikes or in the water on a bodyboard/surfboard, then Hayley is probably out looking for something new to keep the adrenaline pumping!
Website: www.hjdonline.co.uk

Ned Boulting – Talks Doping and Team Sky

Ned Boulting ©Rob (AKA Your Funny Uncle)

Click play button to listen.

Interview with Ned Boulting at Revolution Oct 27th at Manchester Velodrome. An very honest and open interview.

Related links:
Ned Boulting Signed Book Competition
Ned Boulting “How I Won The Yellow Jumper” Cycling Shorts Book Review
Willy Voets ‘Braking The Chain” Cycling Shorts Book Review
Cycling Shorts Revolution 37 Report
Cycling Shorts Revolution Series website
Follow Ned on Twitter @nedboulting

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape

 

Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape

The remarkable life of Jacques Anquetil, the first five-times winner of the Tour de France
by Paul Howard

 
The Times ‘An extraordinary biography

The Times certainly hit the nail on the head with that one! This is certainly a very extraordinary biography. I would perhaps have re-titled the book, Sex and Drugs and ride a bike, rephrasing one of my favourite songs written by the amazing wordsmith Ian Dury. Paul Howard’s biography is certainly full of all three!

Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape unlike many of the other cycling biographies and autobiographies I have read is not an easy read. This is not due to the content of the book but rather in the style in which it is written. It is clear that Paul Howard has spent time carefully researching the facts in the book. He has done this by reading other author’s books and by talking to people around Anquetil at the time. However to ensure the reader is aware of the depth of research the book can at times be as enjoyable to read as a history text book, not totally riveting!

I found the early chapters really hard going and was not sure if I could persevere, but the desire to get under the skin of such a great cyclist drove me forward. Paul Howard deals well with all areas of Anquetil’s life, from his calculating riding style, which did not win over all the French public, to his unusual personal life and loves.

Through the book you certainly get an impression that, actually what happens today is not really that different to Anquetil’s era but somehow it has become more accepted that deals are struck for teams to work together, rider support is bought, and that it is OK to ride to a carefully calculated marginal time gain plan. Lance Armstrong and other greats certainly did this. The darkside however is perhaps the accepted use of drugs to aid performance and Anquetil’s stand against testing and his refusal to be tested after his final hour record, leading to the lack of ratification for the record. Funny to think that Paul Kimmage has become a cycling world outcast for writing about the same thing, when in reality it was all ready in the open.

The hardest part of the book to ‘get your head round’ is that fact that his wife allowed, maybe even suggested, they use Anquetils’ stepdaughter to act as a surrogate mother. This lead to a twelve year relationship, with mother and daughter. Finally imploding and leading to Anquetil developing a long term relationship with his stepson’s wife! I wonder what Jeremy Kyle would have made of that?!

Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape is most certainly an extraordinary biography and if you are willing to work at reading it, overall it is well worth the effort. You get a chance to get the inside story of one of cycling’s greatest ever Tour de France riders. Persevere, overall it was forth the effort.

 
 

Title: 
Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape – The remarkable life of Jacques Anquetil, the first five-times winner of the Tour de France  

Author: Paul Howard    

Published by Mainstream Publishing

Available in Hardback, Paperback & eBook

Price:
RRP £18.99 (Hardback), RRP £8.99 (Paperback), RRP £8.99 (eBook)

 
 
 
 

 
 

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