Marco Pantani (January 13, 1970 – February 14, 2004)

May you rest in peace, Marco. You were once a King.

When I think of Marco Pantani, I first think of a photo from the French newspaper, L’Equipe. On Stage 12 of the Tour de France, along with the rest of the peloton, Marco sits in the middle of the road, his bike next to him. There is a sadness, a disappointment in his eyes, as he looks juuust a bit away from the camera lens. They sat down that day in protest, against the poor treatment of riders during the Festina drug affair.

Pantani won the Tour de France that year, a tarnished cup though it was.

That same photo, large size, with treatments:

1998 Tour de France, stage 12.
1998 Tour de France, stage 12.

(Image source: Same image in color:

The 1998 Tour was a complete train wreck, and one of my favorites. Of the 189 men who lined up on the starting line, only 96 finished in Paris. We all hoped it was the high water mark of drug use, and the end of an era. Instead it stands as a reminder of just how bad it once was, and how far we still have to go.

Pantani put them all to the sword on state 15. Pantani carried an entire nation on his back and became the first Italian to win the Tour since Gimondi in 1964.

Tour de France 1998, state 15.
Tour de France 1998, state 15.

(Image source:

Victory at Les Deux Alpes. That’s how you do it – blow the entire god damn race to pieces, leave ’em all over the road fighting for the lesser places, cross the finish line alone and on top of the general classification. Take all comers and walk out owning it. Boom.

Tour de France 1998, stage 15.
Tour de France 1998, stage 15.

(Image source:

Video of same:

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About big jonny

The man, the legend. The guy who started it all back in the Year of Our Lord Beer, 2000, with a couple of pages worth of idiotic ranting hardcoded on some random porn site that would host anything you uploaded, a book called HTML for Dummies (which was completely appropriate), a bad attitude (which hasn’t much changed), and a Dell desktop running Win95 with 64 mgs of ram and a six gig hard drive. Those were the days. Then he went to law school. Go figure. Flagstaff, Arizona, USA

41 thoughts on “Marco Pantani (January 13, 1970 – February 14, 2004)

  1. I bought that jersey in a small bike shop in Sweden while on vacation during the tour that year. The old guy who ran the shop knew very little english but was excited about what pantani was doing and was excited to see me excited about it too. That year was so much more entertaining than the last few.

  2. I’ll never forget Lance riding right past him as though he was going backwards on Hauticam.

  3. Raising my glass to the only man in the peloton with the right to sport a goatee. The mountains just aren’t the same without you, Marco.

  4. Then there was the 98′ Vuelta where Fancy Lancey took 4th…. doped to the gills

    I wonder if it is Karmic justice that LA is getting popped after the shit he pulled on Marco on Vontoux. Classless.

    RIP Il Pirata, RIP.

  5. It’s funny, though, how everyone still remembers him as a hero, despite it being widely know that he was a prolific doper. And many of these same people will shout to the rafters what a villain Lance is, for no other reason than they suspect him of being the same thing (and I’m sure he probably is). I guess being Italian gives you a pass?

    That said, it sure was fun watching him race a bike…

  6. wonder if Pharmstrong will coke himself to death in a hotel room after he realises all his wins were hollow. Dopers every-last-one.

  7. A buddy of mine said, “Screw Pantani, he was on drugs.”
    “They are all on drugs,” I say, “it’s just his were more illegal than others.” I hold today in more reverence over the Pirate than I do for Valentine. You are truly missed.

  8. I “won” a monthly club ride from Glorieta, NM up to the top of the last parking lot at Taos once… Brutal climb… Completely cross-eyed and cooked… So fried I couldn’t pull on the brakes and I crashed into the barricade at the end of the parking lot…

    It was fucking glorious.

    As amazing as that moment felt, when I look at that last image of Pantani crossing the line, his arms spread like an ascending Valkyrie, I know I’ve never come close to what he must have been feeling.

    Joy? Surpassing joy.

    Transcendence? Yeah… that’s more like it.

  9. …saluti, marco, una vergogna…


    …& humpty, you are truly fucking amazing…

    …just sayin’…


    In the evening when Italy is sad,
    She looks like Rimini,
    No, really, what took you,
    To go and die in Rimini,

    Blackbeard was waiting for you up there,
    The pirates where proud of you,
    No, really, what took you,
    To go and die in Rimini,

    You went higher faster than the others,
    I hope you did not miss Paradise,
    Yes, next to Rimini,
    Even Palavas* looks sexy,
    Because next to Rimini,
    The Grande Motte* ressemble to Venise,

    You went higher faster than the others,
    Yes for you Rimini is really finished,
    You went higher faster than the others,
    I hope you did not miss Paradise,

    One day with all the pirates,
    You’ll come back screaming vengance,
    The bandana under the stars,
    To reduce Rimini to ashes.


    * absolute shiite french sea resorts.

  11. bikesgonewild, i thought we called a truce?

    sorry dude, I just remember a time when LA was talking shit about how he was calling him Elaphantino b/c of his ears and poking him in the ribs off camera during that “episode” after he “gifted” the Vontoux stage.

    You couple that with the classless BS he pulled on Simeoni and it shows the true colors.

    Pantani still holds the record on Alpe Du Huez doesn’t he?

    Unreal how that dude could climb out of the saddle and crush the Big meat for such a small dude.

  12. …this was a simple tribute to an amazing italian cyclist who carried a lotta weight on those slender shoulders…

    …yes, he was a drug user, as so many bicycle racers have been through the years, but while they may all be accused of perpetrating a huge fraud (& it would seem now, with the help of the uci) there is a certain magnificence that still goes with the sport…

    …pantani was one of those bright shining stars that burns itself out more quickly than others but at least we got the chance to appreciate it’s brilliance for a period in time…

  13. the sport was built around performance “enhancing” drugs, so who is to say that it wont suffer with their disappearance?

    just a thought..

  14. …hey gianni or gnomer…speaking of ‘enhanced cyclists’

    …we neeed a posting of the “farce from spain” that was handed down today…

    …methinks there’s a wealth of ramparts to be stormed by our august little cycling community here on dc…

    …por favor, amigos..

  15. I never really have had a problem with doping nor its varied successes. It’s given us countless heros and I already miss those days when dudes would ride like roided horses. For Contador it makes sense that a country who loves its champ, pardons him for a 50 microgram trace of a tweekeresque vasodilator. full boat EPO or blood doping and it’d be a different story.

  16. Yes, LA may have “gifted” Pantani with a win. But when Pantani heard that tripe, he angrily tore into the mountains the next day and destroyed himself and the US Postal squad in pursuit of him. That kind of passion and fury is what made him legendary. RIP

  17. …while i love the fact that guys like “team ride clean’ & a lot of the new younger pro-tour riders honestly seem to wanna do this right by racing clean, i’m kinda with you, gnomer…

    …i’ve come to realize a lotta the best rides throughout the years, the kinda stuff i’ve thrived on, were done “cum medicamentis” & because they were thoroughly awesome, how could i really object ???…

    …there’s no way to remain “high & mighty” about the purity of this sport because the principals, the riders, teams & officials have damaged it themselves so rather than be hypocritical about what is essentially entertainment, i’d only really wish to see some form of transparency…

  18. …post script:…one problem with the contador situation in spain itself is that their defense was as much to appeal to the ‘court of popular opinion’ in order to sway & influence the ‘federation’, as opposed to offering any real proof one way or the other…

    …it’s all hearsay rather than fact with one side played against the other considering most of the spanish population is essentially ‘clue nada’ regarding actual doping practices….kinda like lance within the cancer community…

    …& now, if ‘cas’ rules against contador on appeal by wada &/or the uci, the case is already defined in the minds of the majority of spain – “…he’s innocent & everyone else is picking on our poor ‘pistaelero…”

    …it’s the ol’ “baffle ’em with bullshit” defense…

    …fuck ’em…

  19. @bgw: The other problem with the Contador situation is that the Olympics are next year. With team sizes based on UCI points could the national federation really be trusted to make one of their heavy hitters sit out the season?

    With regards to Pantani, all the juice sloshing around the pack back in the day doesn’t change the fact that he won on days when it all came down to who was willing to hurt the most.

  20. Pantani could hurt all, but he was also the kinda weird foreign kid that could kick your arse and yet not make you feel too bad about it, charm maybe…

  21. …@ art…hadn’t even thought of that aspect but a great point…it goes hand in hand with the uci’s patty mccquaid & his initial statement (since retracted) that even should contador be sanctioned, riis & saxo can use his points as per the pro-tour teams status, which i found to be an phenomenal concept…

    …i think ultimately, contador’s situation will be the agent of change as per how the sanctioning of riders is handled…the ‘royal spanish cycling federation’ (rfec) has royally fucked the case up by allowing this huge national ‘mutual admiration society’ to publicly weigh in on the matter from spain’s president zapatero through the head of the rfec & all kinds of notables, each & every one spanish…

    …the rfec now swears (of course) that there was no bias whatsoever in their handling of the case but the reaction of the worldwide cycling media is palpable outrage…go figure…

    …if wada & the seemingly less & less effectual uci don’t appeal strongly to the ‘court for arbitration in sports’ & get an actual & serious sanction against contador, pro-cycling will not only once again lose credibility in the public’s opinion but it will retain a status of indelible sham even amongst it’s supporters…

  22. …nice touch, gildas…

    …i’ll always stand by my statement that “no form of ‘doping’ will turn a plowhorse into a thoroughbred” & so i see the top guys as always being that little bit better to begin with but the new science of cheating can be bought & sold by the highest bidders to assure that wonderful reputation…

    …the contention has been that when epo was introduced, the price of that science leaped astronomically & changed the basic formula…

    …i see contador as having learned both his science & his propaganda from the best & thus the elaborately constructed scheme of denial in the face of all odds…

    …like a spy with a carefully constructed & unimpeachable false identity which stands up even under the most extreme inspection, one simply sticks to the game plan 100% & i imagine the whole ruse is that much easier to retain with the backing of a nation (or a huge foundation)…

    …it could mean a life or an immaculate & financially rewarding career…

    …just sayin’…

  23. I read somewhere (a book written by a french rider) that EPO/BLOOD/HGH only really works when you are allready at the top of the game. The thing is, the results might be different rider to rider, one might get sick (Fignon) or one might win 7 in a row. It can transform a classic rider into a tour winner and make a timetrialist go up mountains nearly as fast as the goats. And a goat beat Spartacus on TT.
    Also, you don’t go faster, but when you get to point of blow out, you get second breath, then a third, then a fourth etc and the harder you go, the harder your body lets you go (but the pain is pretty bad)… And you get far less bad days, and if you do, you’r fresh as the Prince the next day.

    Just look at the face of Hampsten, Lemond or Hinault after at the finish of a hard mountain stage… They look like something that been left too long in a warm mortuary. Compare that to Beefolero, the dude looks like he’s been sipping a cocktail after a good nap.

    Does the UCI thik we are stoopid? Yes they do.

  24. …ummm, gildas…do you know where i can get a deal on some epo ???…

    …see, i’m about to turn 62 in a couple a’ months & well…i don’t think i need explain more, right ???…

  25. BGW I’ve heard that for the non pro sportman, HGH/Testosterone is the way to go for improved err “life”, but you got to be fit and not so much on the smokes/drink. I’ll look up the litterature when I can (I’m posting while the computer works).

    Personnaly, i was doped by doctors for years, and I’m pretty happy to not need it anymore.

  26. …joking, gildas just joking…honest…

    …i’ve noticed certain folks who are known to have used hgh & while it compliments one part of their life it literally changes their appearance in a way i find to be an unflattering manner & i’m talking about those folks who are older & trying to look younger…

  27. In high dosages, it has “plastic fantastic” effect, but in small doses it does have good results on older active people (fitness, joints and eyesight mostly)…

  28. @bgw: I’m hoping that other individual federations can find a way to reject the decision on their own. The French have been making a genuine effort to clean up after Festina, and it can’t feel good to have to bend over for the Spanish and let Alberto race Le Tour.

    @gildas: The biggest boost from EPO comes in the off season, when the quick recovery allows people to put in massive training volumes. These guys are doping not to work less, but to be able to work more.

  29. That’s why Spanish riders are so vocal about banning nightime testing… A microdose get hard to detect after 8 hours. Just the amount of time they want to be “off limits”.

    In the local paper they say Cowtador tested 5 times positive, with a peak at each end over 4 days… He took 4 days to digest a steak? Was it stored since before Franco? Again, we being mocked by the UCI… Gotogo and check if I still have the paper…

  30. You can do something to protest against Contador;

    This the email of the Spanish Meat Producers Association, big into heathy happy cows. They did more than 14 000 test last year to ensure thet the cows are not given hormones of any kind, because if hormones make the animals bigger, they also make the meat less tasty. Non tasty meat is a big nono in Spain. It’s also against Spanish and European law to have Clenbuterol, let alone inject it into anything.

    Just send a mail of support (english or any language) stating that you don’t believe Contador. This email will be added to the file they have against him.

    This is not just about doping, Contador being cleared basically says that 150 000 spanish farmers are suspect, and right now the Spanish economy is pretty bad. So more than a few risk losing their farms because of this loser.


  31. i loved watching mario pantani ride like nothing else during the tours, but it made me sadder than i can say that he died so sad and alone. alliG*