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In 1998 Marco Pantani, the most flamboyant and popular cyclist of his era, won both the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia, a titanic feat of physical and mental endurance that no rider has repeated since. He was a hero to millions, the saviour of cycling following the doping scandals which threatened to destroy the sport. However, less than six years later, aged just 34, he died alone, in a cheap hotel room, from acute cocaine poisoning. He had been an addict for five years. This is the story of the tragic battles fought by the most important Italian cyclist of his generation; man versus mountain, athlete versus addiction, Marco Pantani versus himself.Written by
"Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist" is a documentary with two sides: it captures both the beauty of cycling as well as it tells the tragic story of Marco Pantani.
Marco Pantani should be placed in a long tradition of mythical climbers in cycling's history (Charly Gaul, Federico Bahamontes, Lucien Van Impe, Lucho Herrera, to name a few). These type of riders attack whenever the road goes up, trying to drop their opponents with many accelerations. By doing so, they become among the most popular in the world of cycling.
Most of the time, these cyclists don't win Grand Tours like the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia, because for winning you need to be both a great climber as well as a decent time trialist (which is not their specialty). However, once in a while one of these iconic, lightweight climbers can outperform their counterparts and win the biggest races on the planet.
In my opinion, the director captures the beauty of the climber and cycling by telling the story of Marco ("The Pirate") Pantani (winner of both the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia in 1998). Footage of the cyclist Pantani is shown, from images of youth races to his famous acceleration in the mountains (with his victory on the stage to Les Deux Alpes in the Tour de France of 1998 as my personal favorite). At the same time, the sounds of cycling (the pedals, the wind, the wheels on the asphalt) are being heard, interrupted once in a while by (former) cyclists and journalists speaking in admiration about Pantani.
The basics of cycling are also set out for people unfamiliar with the sport, without it being a pain in the ass for a cycling fanatic.
Simultaneously, the documentary tells and tries to explain the story of Pantani's life and its tragic ending. Family and friends are telling their sides of the story and the dark side of the EPO-era in cycling (1990s-2000s) is explored. By doing so, the director gives in my opinion a well-balanced answer on the unanswerable question: where did it go wrong with Marco Pantani?
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