In Memoriam: Il Pirata, Ten Years Gone

I don’t know if it’s because I see something of myself in them or if it awakens some kind of nurturing instinct, but I always seem to find myself drawn to tragically flawed figures.

Layne Staley and Marco Pantani strike me as two halves of the same whole; incredibly talented yet tortured with mortally addictive personalities, both set loose into a world of over-indulgence. Everyone – including themselves – saw the writing on the wall in the months or even years leading up to their deaths, but everyone seemed helpless to stop the inevitable: a lonely death. To hear Staley sing is to watch Pantani climb; beauty is to witness an artist pouring their anguish into their trade.

I’ve been watching the 1998 Tour and Giro during my morning turbo sessions, and even with the lens through which we now view those rides, his talent was undeniable, but so was his fragile psyche. You can almost taste his self-doubt even as he flies up the mountains like a soaring eagle.

Today, St. Valentines Day, marks the tenth anniversary of Marco’s death, and with that we dive into the archives for a Kermis on Brett’s look at our fallen hero. See also a previous year’s Valentines Day Memorial.

May you go with Merckx, Marco.

Related Posts

69 Replies to “In Memoriam: Il Pirata, Ten Years Gone”

  1. Ooops, quote malfunction. Didn’t mean to quote the two paragraphs starting with “panache.”

  2. @Wondering

    (to several of the posters here) If you want to glorify a troubled soul with a tragic fall from grace, then go right ahead, I’ll back you on that. But if you’re going to celebrate his drugged up cycling achievements and say they inspired you back then (and now) then don’t be placing Marco on a pedestal and Lance in the gutter. Again, I’m no fan of Lance, but his achievements dominated cycling for many years, even dominated Marco when Marco was at his peak.

    The difference you’re overlooking is that Pantani seemed to me personally a likeable character, like someone I could have a beer with under the right circumstances. Lance just seemed like a dick. Its as simple as that; its not fair or objective, its just the nature of being a fan.

    Also, at the time, the races Pantani made happen were simply exciting to watch, while Armstrong’s felt like foregone conclusions; how much fun you have watching the races at the time has a lasting impact on how you feel about the athletes after the fact.

  3. Pantani’s Bianchi Mega Pro XL that Pantani is totally awesome. I want to get one some day. I will get one some day. I’m a soldier in the celeste army.

  4. I have a Bianchi but it’s goddamn silver. Fuck. Oh well, I could put some Celeste tape on the bars.

    Pedale – we’ll have to take your word for it! (great photo, of course!)

    If you think not knowing who Layne Staley was, the VMH asked me a few weeks ago who Richard Pryor was. I told her I wouldn’t divorce her, but that I would never get over being angry about that question.

  5. @Marcus

    Panache is in the eye of the beholder. The panachyest (look it up) thing I have ever seen in a race was Landis’ comeback stage win in 06. That doesn’t seem to get mentioned too often these days – interestingly, O’Grady was in the break that day and Landis passed him like he was on a motorbike and Ole Stuey expressed immediate incredulity at the performance. Turns out he would know.

    So to all those saying what Marco was or wasn’t, you are all correct. They are your opinions.

    I think it doesn’t get mentioned so much because the bitter taste came in too quickly after the feat to allow it to pass into true nostalgia.

    But we watched it live on French television, after missing the previous day; we were confused and lost as to why he would be so far behind. Amazingly fun day. The ITT a few days later as well.

    Anyway, I for one still have the L’Equipe front page hanging in my workshop.

    @Pedale.Forchetta

    MP in pink jersey – Giro d’Italia 1998

    That might be the most abstractly beautiful shot you’ve ever posted!

  6. Was he another rider? I’ve never heard the name. Don’t make me google names I don’t know.

  7. @frank I remember talking to my brother (who doesn’t follow cycling but is a doctor) about Landis, describing that effort and finishing with, “and you know what, he did it all on a hip bone that is dying which he is getting replaced straight after the Tour”.

    His response, “A young professional athlete with necrosis of the hip? Am guessing he has been taking shit he shouldn’t have been. Bet he is a doper.”

  8. @Pedale.Forchetta

    MP in pink jersey – Giro d’Italia 1998

    That, right there, is an awesome shot.  Pictures are supposed to tell stories, this one speaks volumes.

    Excellent

  9. @frank

    @Wondering

    (to several of the posters here) If you want to glorify a troubled soul with a tragic fall from grace, then go right ahead, I’ll back you on that. But if you’re going to celebrate his drugged up cycling achievements and say they inspired you back then (and now) then don’t be placing Marco on a pedestal and Lance in the gutter. Again, I’m no fan of Lance, but his achievements dominated cycling for many years, even dominated Marco when Marco was at his peak.

    The difference you’re overlooking is that Pantani seemed to me personally a likeable character, like someone I could have a beer with under the right circumstances. Lance just seemed like a dick. Its as simple as that; its not fair or objective, its just the nature of being a fan.

    Also, at the time, the races Pantani made happen were simply exciting to watch, while Armstrong’s felt like foregone conclusions; how much fun you have watching the races at the time has a lasting impact on how you feel about the athletes after the fact.

    I agree completely. An unspoken aspect too is the fact he died, as this leads to the forgiveness of many sins.

    Unless you’re a douche. Ricco could have succeeded in offing himself with his dumbass blood transfusion but we still would think he is a prick, fantastic climber or not.

  10. @ped

    Pure …

    Ullrich and Pantani in the 1998 Tour de France

    What a fantastic shot, what a bike! That Bianchi’s not bad either, Jan’s Pinarello stunning, Jan? Fuck he’s he’s crushing it with Birthday boy, No Fucking Hands!

  11. @piwakawaka

    @ped

    Pure …

    Ullrich and Pantani in the 1998 Tour de France

    What a fantastic shot, what a bike! That Bianchi’s not bad either, Jan’s Pinarello stunning, Jan? Fuck he’s he’s crushing it with Birthday boy, No Fucking Hands!

    Surprising fact about Ullrich that everyone overlooks: he rode without blood boosters of blood doping from 1998 – 2002. The whole Festina Affair scared the shit out of him and he didn’t want to risk it. It wasn’t until 2003 that he started it back up again, after having had enough of getting creamed by Pharmy for so many years.

    That, to me, is amazing. Its also amazing that he really hasn’t spoken up about that.

  12. @frank

    @Wondering

    (to several of the posters here) If you want to glorify a troubled soul with a tragic fall from grace, then go right ahead, I’ll back you on that. But if you’re going to celebrate his drugged up cycling achievements and say they inspired you back then (and now) then don’t be placing Marco on a pedestal and Lance in the gutter. Again, I’m no fan of Lance, but his achievements dominated cycling for many years, even dominated Marco when Marco was at his peak.

    The difference you’re overlooking is that Pantani seemed to me personally a likeable character, like someone I could have a beer with under the right circumstances. Lance just seemed like a dick. Its as simple as that; its not fair or objective, its just the nature of being a fan.

    Also, at the time, the races Pantani made happen were simply exciting to watch, while Armstrong’s felt like foregone conclusions; how much fun you have watching the races at the time has a lasting impact on how you feel about the athletes after the fact.

    Several good points in this exchange.  May I add:

    This is the shirt for the Pantani fan, in Giro pink.


    This is me on the upper slopes of Alpe d’Huez  ,2013 Tour , wearing the above shirt ( the clip is from the World Cycling dvd, snapped it off the tv). I have worked the french folks up into quite a lather, and as you can see we are really “engaging” Froome and Sky as they go by.

    How can I wear a Pantani shirt and boo Froome? I guess the feeling of likeability comes into play. I think your feeling that people are coming down on Lance, the person, is correct. But honestly, the thing that bothers me most about the whole doping catastrophe is the inequality of justice and punishment.

    Rendell references the Conconi trial file that clearly shows that Claudio Chiapucci and Stephen Roche were EPO users at Carrera (at this point they didn’t want to spend the money on good dope for an unproven Pantani). Both are still public darlings. Richard Virenque? Don’t get me started.

  13. @frank

    Surprising fact about Ullrich that everyone overlooks: he rode without blood boosters of blood doping from 1998 – 2002. The whole Festina Affair scared the shit out of him and he didn’t want to risk it. It wasn’t until 2003 that he started it back up again, after having had enough of getting creamed by Pharmy for so many years.

    That, to me, is amazing. Its also amazing that he really hasn’t spoken up about that.

    Sample tests from Ullrich in 1998 did show EPO. Wouldn’t surprise me if they had samples from the next few years then they too would be positive.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.