And they should.
Pantani’s story is one that needs to be told, if not for the contrast to the debacle of an Oprah confession and a Twitter account. It’s just as dark, just as ugly, just as uncomfortable. But there is soul in it, some intangible, something truly emotive. It is a story people can relate to, which is unsettling.
This is my favorite article of all time. Not my favorite cycling article. My favorite piece of writing shorter than a novella. Of all-time. I had this issue of Bicycling in my glove box for almost six years. I have no idea how many times I’ve read it. I remember reading it before track meets in high school, avoiding people and trying to get something in my head about suffering, about hurting. Marco Pantani’s life became a study of it.
Too much was brought on himself. The raw talent, the massive ego crammed into the impish Italian came with strings firmly attached. It came with a paranoia, a layer of insult, and something always tragic, even when times were good. The 1998 Giro-Tour double was the highest of highs; the 1999 positive was just the start of a long slide down to the bottom.
But watch him ride a bicycle! Watch him, like a prima donna, stand a little nearer the edge of the stage, catch the spotlight, attack a mountain too early. Watch him deflate when dropped, throw a fit, throw his bandana down. But watch him climb, perhaps the greatest climber of all-time, from man to legend to an ugly sort of martyr.
The lines to remember are these: “He died as a drug addict. He died because he was a drug addict.”