Tuesday’s mail bag: More on Pantani

One day to rememberEditors;The moment that stands out the most for me in regards to Marco Pantaniwas last year's Giro. It was a huge mountain stage in the Alps and Pantaniwas struggling to get to the top, on his descent he was cut off by StephanGarzelli, and crashed to the side of the road on a snow bank. Hegot off his bike and was grimacing with pain and in tears, he ponderedwhether to continue or quit. Well after sitting on the side of the road and struggling with obvious pain and cuts for nearly 10 minutes Marco continued on and finishedthe race , having lost a lot of time from the leader.

He got up and finished

He got up and finished

Photo:

One day to remember
Editors;
The moment that stands out the most for me in regards to Marco Pantaniwas last year’s Giro. It was a huge mountain stage in the Alps and Pantaniwas struggling to get to the top, on his descent he was cut off by StephanGarzelli, and crashed to the side of the road on a snow bank. Hegot off his bike and was grimacing with pain and in tears, he ponderedwhether to continue or quit. Well after sitting on the side of the road and struggling with obvious pain and cuts for nearly 10 minutes Marco continued on and finishedthe race , having lost a lot of time from the leader. Pantani did not giveup !!!

Love him or hate him there is no denying that he was a fierce competitor,caught up in a system of major drug abuse. The unfortunate thing for himwas he got caught.

My condolences go out to the Pantani family. May he rest in peace.
Ian Merman
Toronto, Ontario

A big loss to all
Dear VeloNews,
I am a cyclist and avid follower of international racing . The newsof Marco Pantani’s death is truly a shock as many cyclist here in Barbadosfollow the international racing scene. Our condolences to his friends andfamily. Cycling has lost a truly daring and valiant rider.

Photo: David Brinton

May he continue to launch his fierce attacks all the way to heaven.
Terry Best.
Bridgetown, Barbados

He made his choices
Editors,
The many letters and reverent words in praise of Mr. Pantani latelyhave given me cause to re-examine the events of the past decade or so,since he first lit up Mr. Indurain back in the ’90s.

I believe Mr. Pantani was one of the grandest talents ever to turn apedal in anger. He was breath-taking. That sentiment is of course not uniqueamong those of us with far more mortal gifts. His recent vilificationby pundits and cycling officials was often over the top. Like many of myfellow cyclists, my thoughts and prayers are with his family at this timeof infinite sadness.

Having said that, it must also be said that incontrovertible proof ornot, I believe Mr. Pantani cheated. This sentiment likewise is not uniquein the cycling world. Yes, he was held up and perhaps persecuted. Yes,his cheating occurred in a time, place, and profession where it was commonplaceto use pharmaceutical enhancement to be faster, stronger. No-one ever toldMr. Pantani what to do when it came to cycling, and I have no doubt whenit came to cheating – he made the choice. It was not foisted upon him.

So, while I mourn the horrible waste, I will continue to mourn the passingof a legendary cyclist into something far less. Mr. Pantani madesome tragic decisions that laid the foundation for the destruction of hislife, his reputation, and his career. Pantani, the God-gifted athlete wasan awesome phenomenon, an unbelievable talent, to be held in highest esteem.Pantani the man was simply a man whose choices often were not admirable,nor honorable, to the very end.

I write this not to degrade Mr. Pantani, but in response to what I perceiveas a representation of the man as naught but a martyr for our sport, ahapless victim, and an archetype for amateur athletes like myself. Thereare far finer examples, living and deceased to whom we should look.

Again, my thoughts and prayers, along with those of all cyclists, tothe Pantani family.
Kevin Milam
Huntington, West Virginia

Hounded to his grave
Dear VeloNews,
I wrote to this publication a few weeks back as one of those who weretaking up the defense of a great champion, Marco Pantani. I was at a completeloss upon reading about his passing. I’ve always felt, however, that thereis more than a certain amount of guilt on the hands of the Italian authorities;in essence, they helped to destroy one of their own. It’s a shame.

I,too, was living in Tuscany during that magical ’98 season, and he wasthe hero of all heroes. Of course, the ’99 Giro took place and sincethat point in time, what happened to him was beyond belief. I’m luckyenough to have seen him race and when the years go by and my friends andI talk of the greats, I’ll wear the replica jersey of that ’98 MercatoneUno team proudly and try to ride like il Pirata.
Mark Bevars
Fort Huachuca

Marco did it to himself
Editors,
I sympathize for Marco Pantani’s family. However, I don’t sympathizewith the man. He used drugs to raise him to levels he thought couldn’tachieve naturally through hard training and teamwork. I don’t agree withEddy Merckx that it was the Italian justice system that did in Marco Pantani.Marco did himself in.

I don’t feel sorry for the just desserts that cheaters receive.
Mike Black
San Rafael, California

Passion, style and grace
Ed,
I will be the first to admit that I was not the biggest fan of MarcoPantani, but I was happy to see him back in the Giro last year, attackingSimoni and going for it all on the toughest day. My shock comes from thehope that he would be back, despite the reports to the contrary.

I had hoped the he had one last hurrah, some more left in the tank,so to speak. He was of a rare breed, full of bravado and the abilityto back it up. He rode with passion and courage, and could be dependedon to put forth his best effort. It seems he gave his heart to cycling,but in the end, I think it was cycling that broke his heart. After allis said, I prefer not to dwell on his down times, that is well documented,but I prefer to remember the great climber who defined the art of gettingup the mountain with style.

Rest in Peace, Pirata. You will most certainly be missed- it won’t be the same without you.
Tim McDonald
Richmond, VA

A symptom of a sick sport
Dear Editors,
I’m still waiting for someone to connect the dots all the way to Jimenezand even that Belgian kid who just died and lift the omerta!

Unstable he may have been, but Pantani was scapegoated. People do itin different ways. Franck Vandebroucke said recently, “I never used (drugs)in competition.” On some level, the Pirate couldn’t get back without dopeor his body gave out because of dope, or he became psychologically dependenton substances. . .but I think in every cycling death of the last year,except for road accidents, doping could at the very least be an accomplicein each case. It’s killing the sport.
Neal Huff
New York, New York

Left only with “What if..”
Editors,
There will always be enough blame to go around when something likethis happens. Therefore, I want to make it clear that I am in no way tryingto place blame on anyone. However, I can’t help but wonder if things wouldhave been different if Jean-Marie Leblanc had not excluded Pantanifrom the Centennial Tour.

Now that he is dead, Leblanc calls him “the last of the great climbersof the Tour.” I think that anyone who has won the Tour, is still activeand finishes as high as Pantani did in the Giro deserved to be in the Tour.It must have been devastating to be excluded, just to put in a few Frenchteams that had no chance to win. I felt back then that it may have beenthe final straw that sent him into a downward spiral.

Now we can only look back and speculate on what might have been oneof the great comebacks to the sport.
Eddie Winkler
North Carolina

I do not often allow myself heroes
The news arrives in Italian:
“Addio Pirata”
(what do they mean?)
it takes a few moments to grasp

“Marco Pantani is dead”
I stare into the screen
The climber of a generation
has left us at 34

He was the answer to an old desire
to witness, in my lifetime, a pure climber
swift and aggressive enough
to win the Tour de France

He was the rider I’d secretly wished to be,
a quiet hero who won in the mountains
where each rider is stripped of pretense and illusion
as their legs give sworn testimony before the court

No secret to his tactics; road goes up
Attack and attack and attack
Stand and sprint until the tempo drops,
then stand and sprint again

The beauty of that cadence
the dance of the mountains
piercing the clouds with a
cutlass-edged gaze

A grimacing visage,
peering through a river of sweat,
soaked to the skin by the fog and mist
vivid colors becoming clearer as he approaches the peak

I’d often imagined riding as his teammate
assisting on the lower slopes as he moved to the front,
handle over bottles, maybe setting the tempo,
then pulling over and watching him climb away to victory

I imagined riding with him on the mountains
I imagined cheering him on from below
I imagined being his friend and comrade
I imagined his shy smile of victorious delight

Alone amid the scree
Alone among the fans
Alone with his depression
Alone in a room in Rimini

I do not often allow myself heroes,
but in 1998? Yes. And now
I do not have to image the flowing tears
as I mourn the sad end of Pantani
Aldo Ross
Middletown, Ohio


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