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At 9:30 pm on February 14, 2004, former Tour de France winner Marco Pantani was found dead in Rimini. It emerged that he had been addicted to cocaine since Autumn 1999, weeks after being expelled from the Tour of Italy for blood doping. Conspiracy theories abounded—that he was injected in his sleep by a business rival, that the Olympic Committee had framed him, that Italia At 9:30 pm on February 14, 2004, former Tour de France winner Marco Pantani was found dead in Rimini. It emerged that he had been addicted to cocaine since Autumn 1999, weeks after being expelled from the Tour of Italy for blood doping. Conspiracy theories abounded—that he was injected in his sleep by a business rival, that the Olympic Committee had framed him, that Italian Industrialists had engineered his downfall, etc etc. If none of these is entirely true and none of them fully explains Pantani's personal tragedy, none of them is foundationless. This book debunks the myths and makes surprising revelations. About Pantani's personal tragedy, but also about the world of cycling. Matt Rendell had access not only to court transcripts but to many of Pantani's friends and the doctors who treated him. But Pantani's life is about much more than drug addiction. Lance Armstrong described him as "more of an artist than an athlete—an extravagant figure." Despite being plagued with injuries he won both the Giro and the Tour in 1998, something very few cyclists even attempt. He was an inspirational icon, and the remarkable wins against all odds make gripping reading.


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At 9:30 pm on February 14, 2004, former Tour de France winner Marco Pantani was found dead in Rimini. It emerged that he had been addicted to cocaine since Autumn 1999, weeks after being expelled from the Tour of Italy for blood doping. Conspiracy theories abounded—that he was injected in his sleep by a business rival, that the Olympic Committee had framed him, that Italia At 9:30 pm on February 14, 2004, former Tour de France winner Marco Pantani was found dead in Rimini. It emerged that he had been addicted to cocaine since Autumn 1999, weeks after being expelled from the Tour of Italy for blood doping. Conspiracy theories abounded—that he was injected in his sleep by a business rival, that the Olympic Committee had framed him, that Italian Industrialists had engineered his downfall, etc etc. If none of these is entirely true and none of them fully explains Pantani's personal tragedy, none of them is foundationless. This book debunks the myths and makes surprising revelations. About Pantani's personal tragedy, but also about the world of cycling. Matt Rendell had access not only to court transcripts but to many of Pantani's friends and the doctors who treated him. But Pantani's life is about much more than drug addiction. Lance Armstrong described him as "more of an artist than an athlete—an extravagant figure." Despite being plagued with injuries he won both the Giro and the Tour in 1998, something very few cyclists even attempt. He was an inspirational icon, and the remarkable wins against all odds make gripping reading.

30 review for The Death of Marco Pantani: A Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    James

    This book broke my heart. Twice. Pantani was one of my favourite cyclists to watch - not always sensible or successful, but when he attacked, he could be like poetry on a bike. Unfortunately, like Pantani, this book is inconsistent, and only 'good in parts'. Firstly, as others have pointed out, the first third of the book is a struggle to read. Rendell has obviously been meticulous in his research. Interviewing people, who I'm surprised would be willing to speak to a journalist. And that shows. This book broke my heart. Twice. Pantani was one of my favourite cyclists to watch - not always sensible or successful, but when he attacked, he could be like poetry on a bike. Unfortunately, like Pantani, this book is inconsistent, and only 'good in parts'. Firstly, as others have pointed out, the first third of the book is a struggle to read. Rendell has obviously been meticulous in his research. Interviewing people, who I'm surprised would be willing to speak to a journalist. And that shows. But somehow that passion for the subject never quite translates onto the page. Instead what we get is a pretty disjointed list of facts and quotes. Interspersed in a way that makes a dry presentation just confusing. In his appendix, Rendell admits that that book was delivered under very tight deadlines and it certainly shows in the first third of the book. The notable redemption is the incredibly fair and balanced way Rendell treats each of his sources - quotes that are obviously coloured, biased, or frankly misleading are presented without disection. You never feel that he's using or looking down on his interviewees, they are all part of the story of Pantani, and all have their own reasons for wanting to remember things the way they do. The middle section, where Rendell has Pantani moving from his amateur career into the professional peloton, undergoes a stark change of style. I wonder if this is the point where Matt is able to write from his own direct experiences, rather than relying on the interviews of the first third. Suddenly, the passion that Matt threatens to write in the first third appears here. We get the same detailed and balanced explanation of Pantani's career, but the confusing sections of quotations are significantly reduced, and there is a strong sense of being there as Pantani races to his wins and as he crashes and burns in the losses. Here we are introduced to the beginning of Pantani's downfall. The rumours of drug use, the pschological problems, the managers and support staff who seem more interested in keeping him racing than keeping him sane. Throughout it all, Rendell continues his same presentation of facts as a balanced account, not actively judging, but leaving the reader to decide for themselves. While the drugs and the psychological problems aren't really going to be a surprise to anybody even vaguely interested in Pantani, I was surprised during this section, to get the feeling that Rendell was hinting at a possible homosexual leaning for Pantani - although never actually stating it - a suggestion that he also returns to in the appendix where he says there were rumours at the time. The final section broke my heart again. It describes, as best it can, Pantani's descent into the personal hell that led to his eventual death in that hotel room. The repeated missed opportunities to take action to help Pantani, completely ignored by those in position to help him. Each time preferring to ignore the problems, sweep them under the carpet, assume they'll just disappear if not really dealt with. Family, management, friends, colleagues. All of them fed his addictions, ignored his psychological problems and forced him to keep cycling even though he was in no condition to do so. Rendell may not judge them, but I found it hard not to after reading this book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Marco Pavan

    Marco was a cornerstone of my childhood. This book sails through those years and dives deep into obscure details and creeps. It's a sad story. However, the way the author jumps to conclusions is quite debatable and not always accurate in my opinion. The book itself could have been written better. Sometimes the flow is clumsy. Also, conversions from lira to yetis are often wrong...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Virgilio Pigliucci

    I can't say I did not enjoy this book. I read it in record time ( for me ) and feel a little sad there are no more pages to read. I did not like much the author's writing style, nor the cheap shots to Pantani towards the end of the book but my interest for the topic, Marco and cycling are huge and I wanted to read as much as possible about it. Bottom line the book will make you dive deeply in the italian cycling world of the 80s and 90s with good digressions in the european circles from a point of I can't say I did not enjoy this book. I read it in record time ( for me ) and feel a little sad there are no more pages to read. I did not like much the author's writing style, nor the cheap shots to Pantani towards the end of the book but my interest for the topic, Marco and cycling are huge and I wanted to read as much as possible about it. Bottom line the book will make you dive deeply in the italian cycling world of the 80s and 90s with good digressions in the european circles from a point of view of one of the best and most contested cyclist of that era. Plenty of information about racing, doping scandals, intrigued plots and glorious cycling moments. Being Italian, I was particularly hit by the way our political/economical situation was depicted by an American writer. I loved the foreigner and quite objective representation of the facts around Marco but there were too many shortcuts taken to get to easy conclusions about Italy. Overall, I am really glad to have chosen this book. I would write a longer review but I am so eager to google 'marco pantani documentary' watch some video footage!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Parrish Lantern

    This book should should come under the same heading as " Don't meet your heroes". The way Marco Pantani, danced up the hills is the way I taught my daughter to ride, that spirit, that certain grace, the way he appeared to transcend the limits of what a bike/rider was capable of, the way he didn't even appear to need the bike, he just danced, & whenever old Ma Gravity starting slapping riders down, he grabbed her by the hand and made this old lady the belle of the ball - dancing with her to the s This book should should come under the same heading as " Don't meet your heroes". The way Marco Pantani, danced up the hills is the way I taught my daughter to ride, that spirit, that certain grace, the way he appeared to transcend the limits of what a bike/rider was capable of, the way he didn't even appear to need the bike, he just danced, & whenever old Ma Gravity starting slapping riders down, he grabbed her by the hand and made this old lady the belle of the ball - dancing with her to the summit of every climb. It now turns out his dancing was more like a 1990s rave scene with Marco as the chief protagonist gurning and gyrating influenced by a cocktail of chemicals prescribed and otherwise . I know the word on this generation of riders was out there, I know that my view is misty-eyed and foolishly romantic, but Pantani seemed somehow to transcend the machinations of the sport - he was there to dance, sometimes with a fellow cyclist but predominantly just him, the mountain and that old lady. Again, I know the evidence was out there - but there's knowing & knowing and this book brooks no quarrel, as it dissects every aspect of Marco's worlds, leaving you with no doubts, nowhere to bury your head ("preserve us from the ostriches"). Despite this I still love how he made me feel watching him ride, just ....... it's now slightly sullied, made muddy by what I know. This book broke my heart & did so with a knowledge & love that made me think it broke the authors as well.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ben Nicholls

    I was very interested in Marco Pantani prior to reading this novel. This biography unveiled a different side to him which I found interesting. Overall, I found the book contained good informtaion-however in some areas it seemed dry, focusing on certain details which seemed to be irrelevant.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Martin Mccann

    As a man who inspired, and still inspires, strong emotional responses from fans and those who knew him, Marco Pantani was a complex character, viewed by those who knew him in different ways, dependent on what strata of his life he allowed them to enter. To research and produce a balanced work that pays tribute to the legend but looks at the dark and light of the man, must have been a long process for Matt Rendell, especially as so many have anointed themselves protector of their version of the l As a man who inspired, and still inspires, strong emotional responses from fans and those who knew him, Marco Pantani was a complex character, viewed by those who knew him in different ways, dependent on what strata of his life he allowed them to enter. To research and produce a balanced work that pays tribute to the legend but looks at the dark and light of the man, must have been a long process for Matt Rendell, especially as so many have anointed themselves protector of their version of the legacy of La Pirata. Rendell has managed to overcome the many tensions and contradictions, and has produced a great work that gives a holistic picture of the demons that drove the man and how those who thought they were doing the best, were actually enabling behaviour that had such tragic consequences. It is important to note that most of those Rendell interviewed can only see Pantani from their point of view and, base these opinions and feelings on the parts of himself he would let them see. Also many seem concerned about how their own roles are viewed-in some cases it can boil down to "I was his best friend", "No, I was his best friend", Rendell's careful manoeuvring through such an emotional minefield has produced a work that , while sympathetic, isn't afraid to hold Pantani himself up to account. What emerges is a tragic tale, with a complex individual as its central character-often while reading I felt frustrated by his actions in some circumstances,so God knows what his friends and family went through. Regular followers of cycling will be aware of Rendell as the polyglot intellectual with an encyclopedic knowledge about the history of cycling and a keen interpreter of tactics-to be honest I am always in awe of the man, and he has employed his linguistic and intellectual talents to create a multi-layered biography. Careful readers, especially those who can spot the odd sentence here and there that seem out of place at the time, soon get used to recalling such information when it reappears in a different form later in- basically Rendell manages to reward the informed eagle-eyed collective with further insights into the possible habits of others, while keeping the lawyers happy! All told, this is a supreme work, and brings the cycling biography to a new level. Even those with no interest in cycling will be enthralled as the story weaves its way to its unfortunate conclusion, leaving the reader slightly unsettled at the end, which is a refelction of the character of Pantani himself. Sadness and frustration, anger and empathy, understanding but judging-all of these feelings will be stirred in the reader.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Will Tate

    It is always a sobering experience to read about the all-too-human foibles of your heroes. As a lifelong follower of professional cycling I have had many occasions to lament over the drug-tainted careers of top racers, almost to the extent that most (until the recent stringent clean-up of the sport) were probably guilty until found innocent. But the decline and fall of Marco Pantani was a particularly hard pill to swallow - 'Il Pirata' lit up cycling in the mid 90s, a diminutive Italian climber It is always a sobering experience to read about the all-too-human foibles of your heroes. As a lifelong follower of professional cycling I have had many occasions to lament over the drug-tainted careers of top racers, almost to the extent that most (until the recent stringent clean-up of the sport) were probably guilty until found innocent. But the decline and fall of Marco Pantani was a particularly hard pill to swallow - 'Il Pirata' lit up cycling in the mid 90s, a diminutive Italian climber whose attacking style and fantastic ability to turn mountains into molehills made him a popular, almost cult-like figure. He won the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France in 1998 and was one of the few riders able to take the fight to Lance Armstrong (who at this time was regarded as the Mr. Clean of cycling!!!). My own favourite memory of him is a stage win in the Giro, when he suffered mechanical problems early on a climb and then caught and effortlessly passed all the riders in front of him to win the day. Then came the infamous doping scandal in the Giro and Pantani's meltdown. The psychological problems, the drug abuse, the failures to resurrect his career... then his death in 2004 at the age of 34. All of this is meticulously chronicled in Matt Rendell's definitive biography of the fallen champion, with the bulk of the 2nd half of the book detailing the drug enquiries, scientific tests and a debunking of Pantani's defences. I would have liked more about the good days, the wins on the snow-capped mountains, the adulation of the "tifosi", but I accept that it is impossible to take those good times without thinking of the bad, and Rendell's almost inescapable conclusion is that Pantani was a systematic user of EPO throughout his whole career. I can do no better than to conclude with a long quote from Rendell from the epilogue to the book, which sums up the whole situation: "[Pantani's wins] were not what they purported to be at the time and they would have been struck out had their true nature been known. They weren't events at all, but phantasmagorical experiences with no clearly definable reality, that existed chiefly in the emotions they caused in millions of individual minds. The emotion most associated with Marco is euphoria, yet we now know that it was triggered by the poisons that flowed through his veins and made his falmaboyant style possible. Those of us who saw him, and were inspired, were doped, at one remove, by those who doped Marco; and, like all drug-induced forms of euphoria, when the drug that induced it was gone, it existed only as amemory, and as a terrible temptation to self-deceive."

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Since I have a life-long affection for cycling and professional road-racing, this book was of interest to me on many levels. I can see why non-cyclists might find it a bit tedious in places as the author attempts to nail down each an every theory concerning Pantani's life and death. Because conspiracy and inaccuracy have dominated the facts even since Pantani was pulled from the Giro D'Italia, Rendell has tried to answer these questions with deep and thorough research. To a non-cyclist the bulk Since I have a life-long affection for cycling and professional road-racing, this book was of interest to me on many levels. I can see why non-cyclists might find it a bit tedious in places as the author attempts to nail down each an every theory concerning Pantani's life and death. Because conspiracy and inaccuracy have dominated the facts even since Pantani was pulled from the Giro D'Italia, Rendell has tried to answer these questions with deep and thorough research. To a non-cyclist the bulk of the book will probably be highly readable and interesting. Even for myself there was a passage or two where it seemed the material was just too redundant. Putting that aside, this book is a superior biography of a leading figure in 1990's Italian bicycle racing. For the bulk of the world (including Americans who follow cycling) Pantani's exploits in internationally-followed races (the Giro D'Italia, French one day classics, and Le Tour De France)may be familiar, but the details of his amateur career and local Italian races will be fresh and exciting. But as interesting as it may be to read of his exploits in these smaller events, the larger story of his major races, physical injuries, fame, and personal life are where the author shines. Pantani was clearly one of many racers who did and used everything available to their advantage. As the years pass, more and more cyclists who were racing from the mid 80s and later have come forward and 'fessed up. For those who seek to understand how these techniques were able to exist even when testing had begun, this book shows that in several ways: how an agency that was supposed to monitor riders for health reasons actually was collecting data to show how effective their doping really was - with an eye to improving its effects, one would assume. Names that have become passingly familiar to even casual followers of the sport for even more recent events are tied in, as well. What would have happened if Pantani had continued his career with the 1999 win? Would a brash American have won his first TDF in 99? An interesting question. To give yourself some insight into the possible answers, read this book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

    I had to put more serious reading aside - if you can call Dune serious - to dig into this in preparation for Le Grand Boucle. So far, good choice; this is like sports writing (epic feats! brutal competition! the flamboyant arrogance that comes from victory and the degradation and fragility of defeats!) merged with tabloid topics (filthy bald man trashes hotel room, snorts mountains of cocaine, dies broken and alone ... but, hey, at least we can talk to his psychoanalysts to see "what went wrong" I had to put more serious reading aside - if you can call Dune serious - to dig into this in preparation for Le Grand Boucle. So far, good choice; this is like sports writing (epic feats! brutal competition! the flamboyant arrogance that comes from victory and the degradation and fragility of defeats!) merged with tabloid topics (filthy bald man trashes hotel room, snorts mountains of cocaine, dies broken and alone ... but, hey, at least we can talk to his psychoanalysts to see "what went wrong"). But the writing is good. One can't help missing the crazed personality. The 90s was a good time ... between Il Pirata, Super Mario, the Tashkent Terror, etc., there were some true weirdos on wheels. Not sure how this compares to Graham Watson's book, but I'm enjoying it thus far. ********************************** Having finished the book, I now have a slightly different perspective. First of all, Pantani's "career" is more or less over by the middle of the book. I never really realized that there was 1 year around 94/95 when he was good and about 1 1/2 years 98/99 that he was phenomenal. I thought there was more. The rest of the book is his descent - well, actually wallowing ... he went down quickly and stayed down - into cocaine abuse, crack abuse, nymphomania, bipolar disorder, megalomania, etc. It's more tragedy than glorifying. Even his greatest feats are more than tarnished; they're made spectral. The most interesting facet (to me) are a few tossed off remarks; one, that he was a media event, the product of a change in technologies (slo mo, camera bikes, etc) and an attempt, by him/media companies/sponsors/race organizers, to create "spectacles" rather than human sports heroes; two, that his approach to life, including his sport, was lyrical rather than tactical/strategic. To some degree, we all still long for those irrational/arrational lyrical moments. I guess that's why I can still watch Pantani's great rides with some sense of awe knowing the chemicals that enabled them. Perhaps the chemicals were necessary, but not sufficient?

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tim Byron

    The review of this book in the Independent says 'An exhaustively detailed and beautiful book.... a fitting and ambivalent tribute - to the man and the dark heart of the sport he loved'. Exhaustive is a fitting word - and at time it is exhausting reading. I was a 24 year old fresh faced cycling enthusiast in 1998 when Marco Pantani road past - alone - near the summit of Les Deux Alps during the Tour de France. Pantani had wings on the punishing mountain roads, and being so close to him, almost ab The review of this book in the Independent says 'An exhaustively detailed and beautiful book.... a fitting and ambivalent tribute - to the man and the dark heart of the sport he loved'. Exhaustive is a fitting word - and at time it is exhausting reading. I was a 24 year old fresh faced cycling enthusiast in 1998 when Marco Pantani road past - alone - near the summit of Les Deux Alps during the Tour de France. Pantani had wings on the punishing mountain roads, and being so close to him, almost able to touch his bandanna, is seared on my memory. So when he was found dead 6 years later in a cheap hotel room it was a shock - the legend had clay feet or more worryingly a dangerous and destructive cocaine addiction. This expertly written book traces his rise and fall - but maybe it is because the fall is so far and so long - it becomes a hard read. The empathy of the reader is stretched to breaking point, Rendell needs to lighten the relentless tragedy up but doesn't manage to do so. So I suppose like climbing an Alpine pass, the initial joy of the sunlit early chapters gives way to a gruelling chore later on. Pantani's decent into madness, paranoia and addiction is bleak and upsetting. The pressure on Rendell to shed light on the corrupt heart of professional road racing demands clarity, and investigative precision - but at times there is too much. The pace of the book, slows right down as he trawls through medical records and blood test graphs, and at times it is like wading through treacle. The text becomes as dense as the EPO doped blood that the cyclists are risking their lives with. It is sad to only give this three stars - I feel it deserves more but to be honest, it was a struggle to finish it. I nearly bailed out and abandoned early.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    (2.5) Interesting subject, well-researched but poorly written It felt like a script for a TV documentary...lots of quotations that could've been better integrated or just converted to narrative. Unless they're presenting conflicting points of view, no sense quoting at length (with some clunky translations at times). Along similar lines, Rendell injected himself into the narrative a few times, worst when he talks about when he asked a question of one of his interviewees. Ot was totally irrelevant, (2.5) Interesting subject, well-researched but poorly written It felt like a script for a TV documentary...lots of quotations that could've been better integrated or just converted to narrative. Unless they're presenting conflicting points of view, no sense quoting at length (with some clunky translations at times). Along similar lines, Rendell injected himself into the narrative a few times, worst when he talks about when he asked a question of one of his interviewees. Ot was totally irrelevant, and just made it confusing who "I" was with all of his long quotations. Could sort of imagine the TV documentary then as well. I also found there to be too many one or two line summaries of race performances, just put up a chart, dig deep into the races or leave them out. Pantani's early successes and dips weren't critical except for the ones he spent more time going into (Giro, Tour wins). Finally, this book is trying to be several things, perhaps to try to stir up controversy? It first begins as a straight bio, then speculation about mental illness, abuse as child and eventually homosexuality. The earlier sections leading right up until Pantani's death were true biography style scope and objectivity. Then he put in a highly speculative and less valuable chapter afterwards. What I did appreciate though was the level of detail he went into on the science of doping and anti-doping, the evidence for and against Pantani (and much of the professional peloton--which was rather disheartening to a cyclist and (former?) fan of professional cycling). This was well researched and well presented. So though the overall rating is pretty low here, I'm still glad to have read this book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    A fascinating book and one which I think gives insight into the greatest deceit of the mid to late nineties and into the new millennium....the idea that heroic deeds where achieved on water , food and training alone. In some ways the book has maybe tainted memories I had of a formidable stage of two in Pantani's career where he used to just accelerate and decimate the competition...the idea also that as so many where blood doping it was for a while an even playing field is disputed in this book a A fascinating book and one which I think gives insight into the greatest deceit of the mid to late nineties and into the new millennium....the idea that heroic deeds where achieved on water , food and training alone. In some ways the book has maybe tainted memories I had of a formidable stage of two in Pantani's career where he used to just accelerate and decimate the competition...the idea also that as so many where blood doping it was for a while an even playing field is disputed in this book as apparently individual bodily reactions to EPO play a part not just genetic strength..however I'm glad I have read the book as it still recall the spectacle (though false ) of those days. Pantani himself comes across as a fairly weak character and one maybe not able to adjust to the international cycling scene as it was then and that really is the main tragedy..Cycling makes and defines him and yet ultimately destroys him. I also find it odd despite evidence of doping that his victories still stand...Lance Armstrong for one seems to have paid a higher price being written out of the Tour de France General Classifications now...I guess that is due to the gravity of his enhanced wins which were far greater..though in actuality the scale of cheating is pretty much the same. I don't come out of this book however disliking Marco..it seems he had some natural talent and made bad choices which were possibly legitimized due to what was going on around him...it's disappointing however that the feats that made him now lie in disrepute. All in all though the book is great and very well researched and presented.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Doctor Moss

    More a book about self-destruction than a book about cycling, although if you aren't familiar with Pantani, you may not find yourself drawn into the story. Marco Pantani was the best cyclist in the world in 1998, winning the Tour de France and the Tour of Italy. He was also one of the most exciting cyclists of recent generations, winning with spectacular, risky accelerations during the hardest mountain stages. His fame in Italy transcended cycling and sports. He was busted for doping the following More a book about self-destruction than a book about cycling, although if you aren't familiar with Pantani, you may not find yourself drawn into the story. Marco Pantani was the best cyclist in the world in 1998, winning the Tour de France and the Tour of Italy. He was also one of the most exciting cyclists of recent generations, winning with spectacular, risky accelerations during the hardest mountain stages. His fame in Italy transcended cycling and sports. He was busted for doping the following year while leading the Tour of Italy, and, if Rendell's investigations are valid, all of Pantani's professional achievements are tainted by consistent use of EPO to enhance the oxygen-carrying capacity of his blood. Pantani did persist in his cycling career after the bust, famously winning a stage of the Tour de France on Mt. Ventoux against Lance Armstrong when the two reached the finish stretch alone, and Armstrong chose not to contest the finish. But Pantani was on the way down, professionally and personally, while Armstrong continued to ascend. He became a heavy coke user, binging repeatedly until finally barricading himself in a hotel room and coking himself to death. It's a well-researched and well-told, unfortunately true, dark story of self-destruction. And you'll learn more than you ever wanted to know about blood testing.

  14. 5 out of 5

    D

    Matt Rendell is nothing if not thorough in his dealings with the life, and trouble times and dodgy blood of Marco Pantani. He follows the young man from his beginnings - his Communist Grandfather who encouraged him onto a bike - to his ugly ending in a lonely hotel room in Rimini, from a cocaine overdose on valentines day 2004. Italy has been looking for a champion like Pantani since Coppi and he did appear and burned very brightly in 1998 - winning both the Giro and the Festina scandal ridden To Matt Rendell is nothing if not thorough in his dealings with the life, and trouble times and dodgy blood of Marco Pantani. He follows the young man from his beginnings - his Communist Grandfather who encouraged him onto a bike - to his ugly ending in a lonely hotel room in Rimini, from a cocaine overdose on valentines day 2004. Italy has been looking for a champion like Pantani since Coppi and he did appear and burned very brightly in 1998 - winning both the Giro and the Festina scandal ridden Tour De France that year. But it was his attacking style, his ability to ride away from all others when the road went up, that made him special to many fans. His decline was rapid. He was on course to winning another Giro in 99 when he tested positive - and his life unraveled rapidly after that. The coke and crack addiction fed into the persecution complex. The question that I was left pondering is could he have been a Champion if he never took drugs - and would he have been one if he'd ridden clean at a time when nearly no-one appeared to.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Paul Rann

    Fascinating and tragic tale about one of Italy's favourite sons. Pantani could be likened to the sporting greats of yester year - a genius, unbelievable natural talent, relying on touch and feel, listening to his body and acting accordingly. But like most flawed geniuses Pantani had problems going back to his childhood. The book explores these and charts his progress as an amateur cyclist moving into the elite professional ranks and at the height of his powers capturing the rare Giro d'Italia/To Fascinating and tragic tale about one of Italy's favourite sons. Pantani could be likened to the sporting greats of yester year - a genius, unbelievable natural talent, relying on touch and feel, listening to his body and acting accordingly. But like most flawed geniuses Pantani had problems going back to his childhood. The book explores these and charts his progress as an amateur cyclist moving into the elite professional ranks and at the height of his powers capturing the rare Giro d'Italia/Tour de France double. It is ironic that on the eve of surely capturing his second Giro it all seemed to go wrong, at least in the public's eyes. However, integral to the book is the author's damning look at the doping problem in cycling. It becomes clear that doping and drugs did play a major part in Pantani's life way before his defence of that ill-fated Giro. Cycling should have done more to help itself and Pantani but both were in denial. Cycling is still paying. Unfortunately Pantani paid the ultimate price. Well worth a read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jude Nonesuch

    Kind of want to do this book justice, despite its not getting a fifth star; it's super-beautifully written and is a really poignant and moving story; I guess it's just that once it gets into the real "descent" part of the story it becomes the kind of thing that, whilst still humanly tragic, as any such thing is, becomes just the kind of numbingly depressive, hopeless and -- the only word I can think of is 'boring' -- by which I mean, all of these stories end up pretty much the same and the detai Kind of want to do this book justice, despite its not getting a fifth star; it's super-beautifully written and is a really poignant and moving story; I guess it's just that once it gets into the real "descent" part of the story it becomes the kind of thing that, whilst still humanly tragic, as any such thing is, becomes just the kind of numbingly depressive, hopeless and -- the only word I can think of is 'boring' -- by which I mean, all of these stories end up pretty much the same and the details of them really have little interest to anyone other than the protagonist --- which is a very tragic reason why people end up dying in these such ways that they do. I guess it's the comparison between the "story" parts of his life, and then the "remainder"; and it's always, to people who are only used to 'stories', surprising how much remainder there always is. Still, hugely beautiful and moving.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Joyce

    I bought this book for Richard as he is an avid cyclist and Tour and Giro enthusiast. Naturally he was interested as he knew all about Marco Pantani. I ended up reading it when we were in Mexico and I ran out of books to read on vacation. It was really quite good even for a person like me who knows a bit about cycling but am not an expert by any means. It does a great job of explaining about r-EPO doping and enabled me to get greater insight into the scandals of late. Pantani is an iconic Italian I bought this book for Richard as he is an avid cyclist and Tour and Giro enthusiast. Naturally he was interested as he knew all about Marco Pantani. I ended up reading it when we were in Mexico and I ran out of books to read on vacation. It was really quite good even for a person like me who knows a bit about cycling but am not an expert by any means. It does a great job of explaining about r-EPO doping and enabled me to get greater insight into the scandals of late. Pantani is an iconic Italian cycling hero with many complex problems. If you have any interest in cycling, finding out more about doping in athletic competition and/or biography, I would recommend this book. All in all, a quick read...

  18. 5 out of 5

    Richard Graveling

    Very analytical and insightful account of this tragic man's life and death. A completely different kettle of fish to other more hackneyed cycling 'heroes', and deserves his place as a unique athlete who sadly had his achievements ruined by doping culture. Rendell manages to get the reader to feel for Pantani without being biased or emotional, there is no agenda - just well-researched biography. Linked well to the Festina debacle of 1998 and Pantani's role in the resulting fallout. Encourages the Very analytical and insightful account of this tragic man's life and death. A completely different kettle of fish to other more hackneyed cycling 'heroes', and deserves his place as a unique athlete who sadly had his achievements ruined by doping culture. Rendell manages to get the reader to feel for Pantani without being biased or emotional, there is no agenda - just well-researched biography. Linked well to the Festina debacle of 1998 and Pantani's role in the resulting fallout. Encourages the reader to examine the other more 'populist' books out there that tend to be more based on the anecdotes/experiences of the authors. Sets the scene of this era perfectly.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Eric Jeppsen

    This is a well-researched book about one of the more tragic characters in modern cycling. Unfortunately, this book is difficult to work through, weighed down by endless people, places, and dates. The biggest problem I had with this book is that it too focused on technical matters and not enough on Pantani himself. As a result, the story of Pantani the man is lost in a sea of graphs and numbers. Don't let the two-star rating fool you; I recommend this book to any serious cycling fan. Just brace y This is a well-researched book about one of the more tragic characters in modern cycling. Unfortunately, this book is difficult to work through, weighed down by endless people, places, and dates. The biggest problem I had with this book is that it too focused on technical matters and not enough on Pantani himself. As a result, the story of Pantani the man is lost in a sea of graphs and numbers. Don't let the two-star rating fool you; I recommend this book to any serious cycling fan. Just brace yourself for some heavy lifting.

  20. 5 out of 5

    GWC

    Rendell writes about the drama of Pantani's self-destruction very well, but I was hoping for more about his bike racing. For example, the book explains numerous times how Pantani thought of himself as an "artist", but rarely compares that self-promoting image with his actual race tactics and results. We get very little about his relationship with other riders and how this affected his achievements. The case that Pantani doped is laid out very well, but it is more often presented as part of Panta Rendell writes about the drama of Pantani's self-destruction very well, but I was hoping for more about his bike racing. For example, the book explains numerous times how Pantani thought of himself as an "artist", but rarely compares that self-promoting image with his actual race tactics and results. We get very little about his relationship with other riders and how this affected his achievements. The case that Pantani doped is laid out very well, but it is more often presented as part of Pantani's personal drama than an issue that affected all of cycling.

  21. 4 out of 5

    pocket rocket

    It was pretty well detailed and researched. Could be a bit dry in spots. There was a huge number of people mentioned in the book and sometimes I had trouble keeping straight who was who and what their relationship to Marco was. Sometimes the details could be overwhelming. Pantani himself doesn't come off terribly sympathetically in this, as he acted like persecuted victim when he really wasn't. Rendell makes a pretty good case for him being guilty as hell, but Pantani seemed to be positively delu It was pretty well detailed and researched. Could be a bit dry in spots. There was a huge number of people mentioned in the book and sometimes I had trouble keeping straight who was who and what their relationship to Marco was. Sometimes the details could be overwhelming. Pantani himself doesn't come off terribly sympathetically in this, as he acted like persecuted victim when he really wasn't. Rendell makes a pretty good case for him being guilty as hell, but Pantani seemed to be positively delusional in believing his own denials. Quite bizarre, really.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Garrett Burnett

    Rendell examines the intersection of sports and life. You never get the sense that you know Pantani, but I don't think that's necessarily a flaw here. It serves to illustrate Pantani's mysterious, paranoid, mercurial nature. As Rendell mentions early on, everyone close to Marco knew him in a different way and wanted to protect his legacy in a different way. Ultimately, it's the sad story of drugs, fame, and no one caring enough about Marco to protect rather than enable him.

  23. 5 out of 5

    CG InDE

    Oftentimes overly detailed and bogged down with figures and names, this examination of Pantani's inevitable demise can overwhelm the reader. However, it is clear on one point- Marco Pantani began and ended his career with drugs. Not a single performance was achieved with bread and water. Therefore, his name should be stricken forever from the list of greats and this continued lauding of media and fans must desist.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Kent

    This is an exemplary book focusing on the sheer chaos that goes on behind the scenes in professional cycling, the prices that professional athletes pay in efforts to be in the elite and ultimately how this more often than not creates the sad foundation upon which the sporting public readily invests its dreams, disapointment and and self delusion upon some larger than life people.

  25. 4 out of 5

    John Poplett

    American fans of the Tour de France perhaps remember him for his brief rivalry with Lance Armstrong. Fans from other countries prefer to remember him for his "panache" or derring-do. A gloomy peek into the guts of professional cycling and overall a pretty sad story of a live cut short by cocaine. You can't say the author didn't warn you though. It's right there in the title!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Martin Roberts

    I gave up on this book despite being a life-long keen cyclist who was deeply saddened at Pantani's downfall and untimely death. Reading about every pedal stroke in a race Pantani rode at 17 gets in the way of the story, and neither did I like the pop-psychological conjecture. While I appreciated the background, some context would have been nice.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    A well research look into the life of this great cyclist. Keep in mind it is entitled the "death" of Pantani. this book does not glorify his career - instead is shines a harsh light on his life as a doper and drug addict...sad, but a very intriguing book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Chad

    This is a good book because its one of the few in English. The timeline and flow seem somewhat confused at times, jumping around periodically. Lots of added history and culture of regions that could be removed. Sometimes too detailed.

  29. 4 out of 5

    ジェイミー

    Typographical errors are just really, really annoying in a published book and this had many. The story was a little heavy on the doping side of the sport and lighter on the psychological and emotional life of Pantani.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Elliott

    More about doping than racing which, given Pantani's life, might be appropriate but doesn't make for a great read. Author seems to force his thesis that lack of love compelled Pantani to take cocaine and to dope.

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