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Letters to Cyclingnews - February 16, 2004

Special edition: Remembering Marco Pantani

Marco Pantani
Photo: © Phil O'Connor
Click for larger image

The sudden death on Saturday of Italian climber and 1998 Tour de France winner Marco Pantani shocked the cycling world, and as Pantani's colleagues in the peloton paid tribute, so his achievements and the tragic end to his life were high in the minds of Cyclingnews readers too.

Below are the first emails we've received in the 36 hours or so since the news; they're still coming in and we'll have more over the next few days. To add your comments to this section, email us at letters@cyclingnews.com.

Enormity

As I sit here sending in a selection of pictures for this week's issue of Cycling Weekly the sight of Pantani's face on my computer screen peering out at me brings home the enormity of what has happened, I've thought of little else all day. Attached is a portrait of Pantani which I hope you will put with this letter, it has always meant a lot to me as it is how I will always remember him.

Phil O'Connor
Hampshire, UK
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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Not like this

Well it shouldn't have ended like this and cycling is worse off for losing a personality and a legendary rider. It's sad that in the end there was no one he could turn to for help.

I'll save a picture of the great Marco Pantani and play my tapes of him conquering climbs until they fade away.

Martin Harker
Melbourne, Australia
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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Buzz

Poor Marco he didn't deserve this. Just remember him as the Great champion he was & is. The buzz he gave when at his peak & climbing is what we should remember, not what the tabloid hacks say.

My lasting memory is when in the '99 Giro he had to stop, then got going & passed rider after rider on the climb, to win the stage.

Thank you Marco.

Alistair Bell
Scotland
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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A true campione

I am so sad, the death of Marco Pantani is a real tragedy. No matter what others may say I always believed in il Pirata, he gave me some of my most beautiful moments in cycling and I have watched the disintegration of a great cyclist over the past few years with a deep feeling of anxiety. My worst fears are realized. I only hope this will open the eyes of those who are dirtying our sport.

Whether or not Marco used drugs is yet unproven, what is true however is that he suffered a disproportionate amount of the blame for this malaise, and was unable to cope with the unfairness of it. To those in the sensationalist press who know nothing of suffering and sacrifice and are ready to scream dope at everyone, I lay this death at your door.

Today I'm going out to ride in the mountains and remember watching him drop Jan on the Galibier while I danced around chanting "Vai Pirata!". Marco if you can hear me I hope you have at last found some peace, I will always remember you as a true campione.

Steve Farris
New Mexico
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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Exciting moments

Buona notte il mio pirata bello.

A million thank-yous for authoring some of the most exciting moments to ever grace any race in cycling's illustrious history. I am truly saddened to learn that that which you once loved was lost to you in the end and had become a source of bitterness and sorrow--if there is a Heaven, may you bask in the glory of your greatest victories for all eternity, reuniting with the love and admiration you once owned to the exclusion of all other cyclists in the peloton.

If doping is still the way of champions in today's peloton, may the death of this great little rider, who was publicly shamed and whose greatness has been forever tarnished, be the trumpet that inspires those lucky, smart and devious enough to evade detection to cease their hypocrisy and fess up. There is something much worse than a cheat -- a sanctimonious hypocrite.

With much sadness and tear-welled eyes,

Kelly Milam
Fort Lauderdale, Fl USA
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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Bitter

I'm not ashamed to admit I cried when I read about the death of Marco Pantani. I can't help but feel very bitter about what has happened to him since the '99 Giro. No other cyclist has been persecuted to the extent that Marco was - all in the absence of any concrete evidence against him. I hope all who saw fit to destroy him are satisfied now.

Marco was the reason I took up cycling. I loved him and will never forget him.

Richard Jenkins
Swansea, UK
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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Shocked

Its the 15th of February when I'm writing this and I feel shocked. Of course, not all of the facts have come out yet, but it appears that Marco Pantani has committed suicide due to his state of mind. What's happening to the world we live in? This is Marco Pantani, the Pirate we are talking about. I was never part of the Pantani 'Tifosi' but I did appreciate his way of riding, his character, and the colour he brought to cycling.

We all witnessed the ups and downs of his career, from those days when he and Chiappucci battled for the leadership of the Carerra team, to bronze in the World Championships, to podium finishes in the Tour, broken legs, and then the brilliance of 1998. Marco saved the Tour. The implosion had begun after the Festina affair broke, and it was the enchanting style laced with pure grace that won the Tour and won back many of our hearts for the Tour de France.

Things then went wrong in 1999. And I feel angry, like blame must be attributed. We have held the Hutton Enquiry to assess responsibility for the death of a scientist here in Britain, and surely something similar must be done for Marco. Prosecutors hounded the poor man, when all around them it was clear that whilst Marco might not have been innocent, he was not the only guilty man. And what about Jean-Marie LeBlanc? Should not all previous Tour winners who still raced have been invited to the Centenary edition? We had seen a rejuvenated and matured Pantani ride with courage and ability in the Giro, would he not have suited the Tour last year? Maybe not, I don't know, but I still feel that Pantani's weak mental state was by no means his own fault.

I had always believed that every time Pantani fell, he would come back again. I had even imagined him possibly returning as a directeur sportif and guiding an Italian rider to victory over Armstrong in the Tour. It looks like this will never happen. The sad question we must ask though is how and why did the actual events happen.

We will remember his brilliance.

Ed Alexander
Atworth, England
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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Il Pirata treated poorly

I’ve never been a big fan of Marco Pantani. His overall pessimistic attitude was just a bit much for me to bear. However, I am going to miss the competitiveness and the factor of excitement that Il Pirata brought to cycling. His unpredictable and exciting attacks were reminiscent of his fellow countryman, Claudio Chiappucci. Marco Pantani was good for the sport of cycling yet the sport of cycling treated him poorly. His suspected use of EPO was never proven. The ban and disqualification from the 1999 Giro that resulted from his suspected use of EPO was a farce. Sure, his hematocrit was elevated but this is not positive proof of the use of EPO. Officials seem to forget that altitude and dehydration also raise hematocrit levels. Marco Pantani made an incredible recovery after an accident that required leg reconstruction despite the fact that the sport kicked him when he was down. Marco Pantani’s death is a tragedy and he will be missed. He can now rest in the peace that he was not granted by the sport.

Ken Pinder
Ohio, USA
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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Passion

Marco Pantani will be greatly missed by the peloton. In a relatively short career, he probably has done more to invoke a passion for the sport of cycling than any other single individual.

Cory Kramer
Parker, Colorado
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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Off-bike personality

He was a hero to me, as a father, as it was watching him climb in the Giro that inspired my shy and then-directionless young teenage son to find a sport he could throw himself into which was out of the mainstream social loop of ordinary high-school experiences. The images of Pantani, pre-and post-race, playing marbles with young kids, or manipulating Polaroid photos of himself and his fans together stands in stark contrast to most athletes, who run for the sanctity of the team bus or the locker room. Forget his incredible ability on the bike, it's the off-bike persona I'll remember best.

Charles Shafer
USA
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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The best climber

The best climber of the world is now climbing to heaven, where he will find his well earned peace.

A big fan from Holland.
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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A great racer

The passing of Marco Pantani, is truly a lost for the world of bicycle racing. I do not know if he was a doper, but I do know he never failed a drug test in any race, or outside any race. But in the world of bicycle racing, a high hematocrit rate is enough evidence for allot of purist, and certainly for ambitious Italian prosecutors. That is the tragedy of Pantani's passing, we will never know, or ever see him rise out of the saddle again and head for the summit.

Man, I can only dream of Pantani, Ullrich and Armstrong, going at it in 1999 Tour de France. What a loss for cycling, to never have seen this show down, for whatever reason. I feel robbed.

We will never know the truth about Pantani, but man did he love the bike and loved racing. I will forever miss his competitiveness, and his total all out effort to tear the legs off his opponents. The Great Pantani was just that, a truly great bike racer. My Bianchi and myself feel his lost.

Vert Hallahan
USA
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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Baffled

Upon lying in bed last night listening to National Public Radio, the news of Marco's death was broadcast from my small alarm clock radio into my foggy head. It hit me like a ton of bricks, causing me to lurch up, grasp a quick gulp of air and rub my legs in an attempt to calm down the goosebumps that had so abruptly formed on them. I wonder, how could a man that has presented himself to me through T.V. clips and magazine photos leave me so baffled and sympathetic? Marco was a true Champion of cycling and an inspirational human being. He will be missed.

Justin Moe
Seattle, WA
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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Heart of a lion

I was shocked to see last night that Marco Pantani had died. I never got a chance to see him race, as I became interested in the sport after his troubles had begun. From reading about him and videos I've seen, I admire him greatly as a rider. Procycling did an interview with him a few years back. The passion and excitement he felt for the sport was very eloquently displayed. He had the heart of a lion and the soul of a poet. Cycling has truly lost a great man.

William Horning
Emmitsburg, Maryland
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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Never forgotten

The great memories of "Il Pirata" will never be forgotten.

Ernesto Paredes
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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Only human

With the passing of Marco Pantani, the cycling world has lost one of the most exciting and talented riders of a generation. His climbing prowess was second to none and, as with any true champion, he could pull out the odd surprise and ride outside himself when the chips were down (e.g. 1998 Giro, final ITT).

Recently readers of various online publications commented negatively upon Pantani's current situation, many discounting him as washed up and as having no talent without the use of drugs. Unfortunately for Pantani, as is often the case with public figures, he had no shelter from public comment and criticism of his regrettable circumstances. Of late, he had the worst of all worlds: the abandonment by the vast majority of his fans while being trashed in the media for suffering from depression as so many people do at some time in their life.

Did Mr. Pantani read the criticism and derision that was aimed at him by readers of these publications? We'll never know. But, I believe fans should remember that on the other end of our commentaries and criticisms are real people...not just names associated with posters or images on a television screen. I think readers and cycling fans at large forgot that Marco Pantani was a (reportedly somewhat fragile) person with feelings, hopes and dreams. I'm not accusing any person or group of causing Marco Pantani's death. He and only he made the choice to (apparently) take his own life. But we, as cycling fans and fellow human beings, need to find the best in ourselves and temper our criticism of others. Empathy and compassion go a long way to making our sport and our world a better place.

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me."- total bullshit.

So, as we say goodbye to Marco Pantani, yet another one of our own to pass in recent months, keep fond memories of him and forgive him his trespasses. He was only human.

Jim Strange
Carson City, NV, USA
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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Sad

What a sad, sad world this is sometimes.

Michael Murphy
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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Reality hits

Many and all of us regard Marco Pantani as a great cyclist and personality in the cycling world. But when we all boost egos through sport, such as Marco's, then reality hits hard when things start falling apart. We all put Marco on a high mountain so to speak, seeing him ride great on tough climbs and wanting more from him boosted that ego.

With all the things that happened since his Giro/TdF wins, Marco found it extremely hard to stay competitive because of how he stayed at the top. What he did or how did it to stay at the top level of riding was fueling the ego and trying to please the fans of the world. When this was not possible no more, massive depression hits the deprived ego and it hurts the body to the core.

The fans and Marco Pantani are at blame to a degree for putting such high demands for sporting events. Marco felt he was letting the public, friends, and family down and found no other way out of his depression. This is only my opinion of course.

Ty Haar
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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Courchevel

I was in France with my wife and three kids in July of 2000. I'll never forget the images of Marco Pantani's last victory at Courchevel. I was watching the stage on television with my 15 year old son who was more taken by my vociferous excitement than by the racing itself. I suspect he couldn't comprehend how a 48 year old man could turn into such a cheering groupie. I talked about cycling and Pantani's exploit all the time back then. My son and my other kids found this all a bit too much. I was and remain an unconditional admirer of Marco Pantani's exploits.

The joy I felt for Pantani after that glorious victory at Courchevel was as great as the sadness I feel today for his sudden death. His skills, courage and panache stole my heart forever. His demise broke my heart. With his death my heart cries.

Ciao Pirata, you were one of a kind.

Italo Magni
Montréal
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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Troubles

I am sure I join thousands of cyclists that will mourn the loss of Marco Pantani. It is obvious now to all of us just how troubled Marco was, and probably has been for many years. Certainly the beginning had to be the expulsion from the Giro in 1999, and then all the disappointments in the years that followed. I know that cheating goes on amongst some portion of the riders, but I always thought that Marco was clean in those days, and that a great injustice was done to him in that Giro. Certainly the bright spots in his career are all the attack moves he made in the races I could watch, like the Tour, and the Giro. He would just shoot away so easily, and no one could follow.

Unfortunately, with all the success came some form of arrogance that led Marco to start talking about himself in the 3rd person. I always found that strange, but perhaps that was just another indication of Marco's troubles. Maybe it is a leap to call that troubles, but I think when you start talking of yourself that way, it is like you became bigger than you are able to handle, and now you are in the support role trying to keep that image at the top. No one can keep that up for very long, and it is just a matter of time. It is sad that Marco has left the sport now forever. He could have come back in a different capacity and still made contributions as well has provide inspiration for younger riders and his always enthusiastic fan base.

Eric Hallander
Little Silver, NJ
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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Heartbroken

I can only imagine how those close to Marco must feel right now if I, who only loved him as a fan, feel so heartbroken. There will never be another cyclist like him. He touched me as no other sportsman ever has. Please let us know how we, his 'tifosi', can send condolences to Marco's family.

Rob Kirshoff
New York, USA
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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Rob, we'll make sure Marco's family sees this page.

A determined spirit

I read of Pantani's death and was in shock.

Marco Pantani was the greatest climber this world has ever seen. Greater than all the past climbers, and I would say it will be a long time until we see another climber topple his achievements. Pantani never used other cyclists to win his stages. He attacked like a pirate and let anyone follow who thought they could hang on. This is what separates him from other champions. Riders like Lance Armstrong are strong, but half their work is done for them by teammates, and I have yet to see a real attack in the mountains as Pantani used to. You could see him suffer, and tell that he was trying, and his efforts would reflect in the gaps he opened on the field. At times he would falter, and weaken, showing us that he was human, and that his results came from a determined spirit and mind, not just strong legs.

Pantani had style and character, he had class. He danced on his pedals like no other rider, and he looked magical. Champions of today lack this class. Pantani was afraid of the wind and afraid of the flat roads. He was small and would be destroyed in the time trials -- he was human. But his determined soul showed us that he was bold and brave, clinching a third spot in both of the grandest tours in the time trials, no place for a tiny climber.

True champions sometimes are up, and sometimes are down, but when they are up, they rise above anyone else. What made Pantani so magical was that he was a tiny man who battled Goliaths. He went onto the battlefield , dwarfed in the peloton, yet, they feared him.

I come from a small country called Zimbabwe. My name is Chris Hoffman. There, we don't have much in the way of cycling. I saw Pantani's pictures in magazines that had somehow found their way to Africa. He looked amazing. This sparked a flame in my heart. He was my inspiration and hero. I later became my country's national champion. I then became a regional champion, and finally raced in Europe. I met Pantani at some races, and he was more than I had imagined.

Cycling destroyed him however. When he was on top, cycling made him a hero. But when he found trouble, the cycling world disowned him, and spat him out. He was alone, and hurt. He was heart broken. His family (cycling) had thrown him out and never wanted him back. Pantani was just a man doing what he had to do, something that every cyclist has to face. But the world turned their backs to him. No cyclist will win a race because of what is in his bottle, but for what is in his mind and for what sacrifices he has made. If this statement was not true, then a football fan could win the tour by drinking a special mixture of protein.

I am disgusted by the cycling community and the police for what they did to Pantani. In any case, Pantani moved mountains, and climbed them too, those who condemn him, only sit in a leather chair and observe from a distance. There are thousands who will remember Pantani. He etched in the stones his name. No amount of time can weather his achievements, nor can any man go any better. Pantani has ascended too high for us to see him again. His final attack was just as unexpected as usual.

Chris Hoffman
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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A symbol of cycling

This is not a day of joy. This is a day of tragedy!

During the last couple of years life has been a hell for Pantani, worsened by the medias handling and focus on him as 'a devil of cycling' because of his doping affairs. I can not stand the way his person and cycling skills has been put behind and almost forgotten by the media who, as always focuses on the stories and headlines which can sell their newspapers and programmes. Now they want to give him a tribute... and I'm so sick of that.

The only ones who can say with a clear voice, that he was a great rider and deserves to be raised as a symbol of cycling itself is US SUPPORTERS and the FEW FRIENDS he had during his career and personal life. Everyone turned their back on him after his failure for a successful comeback and I guess that what was hit him the most.

With these words I hope Pantani will serve as a symbol of what fame and media can do to a charming and talented guy. My thoughts are with you - the best ever grimpeur - MAY YOU REST IN PEACE!

Your faithful fan,

Daniel Laursen
Denmark
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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An inspiration

Marco,

As a 30 something recreational rider you inspired me in 1998 with your double to get back on a bike and rediscover the great things about bike riding even at my level. I was in Adelaide in 2000 and out for a ride wearing my Mercatone Uno outfit when Team Telekom, training for the Tour Down Under, came the other way. When they saw the outfit they began to shout "Marco! Marco!" a moment I will never forget and a sign of what your fellow pros thought of you. It is a sad fact of life that humans pay not as much regard to great strengths and victories but punish the human frailties that we all possess. You have finished your final mountain top stage but did it have to be so low?

Rest now Marco the legend.

Peter A Doody
Mildura, Australia.
Monday, February 16, 2004

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Pressure

Marco Pantani was probably the top cyclist who I have admired the most in recent years. I never felt that he was treated fairly by the news media and commentators. Even when he was doing well, news people always joked and made fun about him. I think the news and commentators never really knew the damaged they were doing. ANYONE who rides in the international peloton in the Giro, the Tour or the Vuelta, should be a respected professional. And it is most often, pressure is put on these cyclists by those who are NOT of the peloton, and this pressure can cause these professional athletes to often move towards the negative aspects of the sport, as well as become depressed.

I always respected Marco, probably because of the Italian blood in me. Understanding the culture of an individual makes a difference in your attitude toward them. Claudio Chiappucci stated it best when he said, "... a lot of people were pointing their fingers at him as a bad person, now they're saying 'he was a great person'. Pantani could have used more friends when he was alive." We should not forget this! When you look at Pantani's accomplishments, how can anyone say anything except, "Marco Pantani was one of the greatest cyclists of modern day cycling."

May you fly in the mountains forever, Marco!

Jeff G Hart, USACycling official and coach
Nebraska, USA
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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Still a hero

I know this will be one of many but...

Marco - dead? Though like many I could only watch him on the small screen I always waited for another comeback. It won't happen ... and that hurts.

It wasn't just 1998, it was the flights across the hills and mountains. Sure he was tainted and fallen, but that is why he is still a hero to many and to me.

Marco, io ti mancero. Al prossimmo and thank you for a career of memories. Thank you.

Michael
SW London, UK
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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Pantani & Chaba

No mountain is high enough.

Known to the world as the one who troubled Indurain. Known to the world as the one who defeated Ullrich first. Known to us as one of the greatest climbers, a true warrior of the slopes, King of the mountains, a true spirit has left us. He's probably chasing El Chaba up the road to heaven, but that's a hard one to catch!

Today I saw some footage of a 2000 TdF stage; Pantani chasing Jimenez. He passed him to claim victory. Together they claimed our love for cycling, for climbing in specific. Together they are on top. We are left as losers; even in death we can't keep up to them when the road goes up.

Marco, You will be greatly missed by all of us. Chaba, take care of him. Go for a ride together. We will always respect and love you guys.

R.I.P. M & C. You will be missed

N.J. Thissen
The Netherlands
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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Champions alone

It was a very sad day to hear of the passing of Marco Pantani, but a path that was not totally unexpected for the great Italian champion if early allegations of suicide hold true. It just makes one wonder if the people that loved and celebrated him the most weren't just a small bit responsible for his death. We seem to thrust our champions into the stratosphere where they languish in the illusions that we thrust upon them. They are left all alone with no one to reach out to, as it would be a great sin of sport to admit weakness or fear.

Their minds can become so isolated that they suffer from some type of ego dementia, where dangerous thoughts can conquer any man's heart and soul. Since being introduced to cycling in the early 90's, I have never seen anyone animate a race like Marco Pantani. His panache and seeming lack of tactics made him fun to watch whether he was going uphill or down. Watching his reemergence at the 2003 Giro d'Italia had to pull at your heart strings. I really thought he had conquered his demons, but he had just temporarily pushed them aside. To all that were close time him, I give you my heart felt condolences. Maybe one day instead of lifting our champions up, we can learn to reach out to them. Winning is a lonely exploit that takes great courage. We can learn a lot from the giants of the road, but off the bike they suffer from the same human frailties as the rest of us.

Rob Gable
USA
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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Time for reflection

In the mid- to late-1980s I was developing into a fairly good runner. In cycling terms, I would say I was a Division II pro. In my build up for my effort to qualify for the 1988 US Olympic Trials in the marathon, I ran about 110 miles per week. It took me about 12 hours a week to do that.

Injuries prevented me from running beyond 1987. I found cycling in 1989. The first thing that struck me was that the commitments made at the foundational levels of cycling… where I began as a Cat IV and, in mountain biking, a beginner, seemed way disproportionate to people’s abilities. Overweight, less-than-talented (God bless their enthusiasm and interest, but…) riders were putting in far more hours than me. As only a fairly good Category IV rider, I was putting in more training time than I had when I was one of our nation’s best distance runners!

Then, as my ability increased and I began to be able to ride with our club’s elite riders, I saw this times ten. The training time increased exponentially. So did the problems. Most of my training and racing partners were surrounded by failure in the rest of their lives… failed marriages, failed businesses, strained marriages, strained work relationships, etc.

Here’s what I am trying to say. Cycling, as it is practiced, is a stupid sport. When my friend Brian Stickel took over as director of competition at NORBA in the early '90s he was quoted in all major cycling magazines as wanting to increase NORBA membership by X factor (I can’t remember the percentage or the total number, but it was extremely ambitious). I remember saying to him right after reading this that I thought the best thing he could do was to use a mutual friend Hank Lange, a well-known and successful coach, to promote his “Train Smarter, Not Harder” methodology. I told Brian that I did not think there were enough people in America willing to throw away the rest of their life to be one of his numbers. Until a cyclist could compete with only a reasonable amount of training, there was no way cycling could grow.

The recent deaths of Marco Pantani and Jose Maria Jimenez, both following bouts of depression, should sound an alarm about the demands we as cyclists place on ourselves. It is stupid… from Lance Armstrong to me as a now overweight father hoping to compete some day as a masters rider. Cycling is the modern day equivalent of the Cold War. Cyclist devote far too much of themselves to the sport mainly because “everyone else does.” In order to compete, we feel we need to do what everyone else does. And we feel inferior if we can not. Marco did. Jose did. Thousands do. It is simply crazy. We, as competitive cyclists, are crazy.

I mourn the death of Marco Pantani and Jose Maria Jimenez. But I mourn just as much the many losses that cyclists everywhere experience, whether they know it or not, simply because they’re caught up in the Cold War of cycling.

Steve Fortier
Saturday, February 14, 2004

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Thrilling

On a good day, Pantani was by far the most thrilling racer around. The only one who could have come near him then was el Chava Jiménez, though he never flew that high.

James
Argentina
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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Shocked

I'm deeply, deeply shocked at what can only be described as a tragedy. He was a champion's champion.

Cycling has lost one of its greats.

Mark
Liverpool, Great Britain
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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Thank you

I am an amateur cyclist in Hungary. Me and all of my team-mates and friends are shocked by this tragedy. It is very hard to believe that our idol has gone. He was the one who really made me a cycling fan and encouraged me to do cycling more seriously. In the last couple of years, we have discussed at the beginning of each year in our team that maybe that will be the comeback year of Marco. We would have loved to see the battle again between the three giants - Pantani, Ullrich, Armstrong. But cycling will never be the same anymore. For me, Marco remains the biggest cyclist ever.

Rest in peace Marco, and thank you for all you gave us.

Robert Arany
Eger, Hungary
Monday, February 16, 2004

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Witch-hunt

First and foremost my sympathies must go to Marco's family and friends at this tragic time.

Marco Pantani may have become embroiled in the scandals that overtook cycling in the late 1990's, but, ultimately, this is a sad sad day with the death of a human being being the final denouement in a tragic end to life.

How high Pantani had soared only to fall with a most ugly ending.

Perhaps he was a flawed or a weaker character than some - most campione or geniuses are flawed in some way, but the witch-hunt Pantani endured must have driven him to some dark recesses of his mind.

We should not forget that an individual felt the need to resort to taking their own life, as a way of escaping their troubles.

Where was the help for this person at his darkest hour?

Where were the journalists, doctors and directeurs sportifs who had hounded him on the way to the top?

They were all there when he was great, but not so keen to help when he was down.

Sadly, many of these questions will go unanswered, but the facts will show that Marco Pantani at 34 --- died!

Arrividerci and ciao, Marco.

Graeme Bray
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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The straw

Cycling is a sport that is based around passion and the ability of individuals to suffer during an event for the sake of a sponsor or a country. Marco Pantani did neither. He simply rode his bike in an attacking fashion that excited fans worldwide. Pressure not only comes from outside but inside as well. Perhaps being called a cheater and a doper became the straw that broke the camel's back. Perhaps not being allowed to race the races he loved (the Tour the last 3 years) did it. Now we will never know.

Marco was as much innocent of doping as he was guilty. Either way we lost a great cycling personality and most importantly we lost another human being. I'm just glad I live in a country where you are innocent until proven guilty. Maybe now organizations that raid peoples houses and try to slander reputations will think more clearly that they are not only attacking a rider but a person as well that has rights and freedoms.

I don't think there is a problem having systems in place to catch cheaters but there is a problem when people are persecuted just because someone doesn't believe what they are doing is believable (see Lance Armstrong after 1999 Tour). I don't see Marco as a doper because it was never proven that he was. Maybe organizers, officials and doping committees will realize that their actions not only effect a rider but the person that was there before they became a cyclist.

Thank you Marco for your courage on the bike, it's what I'll always remember you for.

Shane Coxie
Asheville NC USA
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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His own style

I wish I could put into words how I feel. To say it is a loss would seem trite. I watched cycling, but never really understood it. It was great to watch the Tour, but riders were much of a muchness... until. He rode to his own style, rules were forgotten, he just went when he wanted. Wouldn't it be great to see him win the Tour?

1998 and the Giro was his, no way he could do the double though. A friend makes a bet, I follow. My friends at the radio station repeat the comments on air during a sports round-up. My hair was safe though, he was too far down the GC. Then I watched as he disappeared into the mist on a cold mountain, with each pedal stroke my hair shortened. I cheered, knowing my bet was lost. At the end of July, I met with my friend, him bald, me no more flowing hair, just a short crop. Losing my hair seemed a small price to pay to see the Pirate triumph.

Now, Valentine's Day is nearly over and my bike sits untouched for weeks, black clouds swirl around me. The news comes through and I cry all night. I make a promise to a departed hero. Today I rode my bike, with tears in my eyes, but I rode. I promised Marco I would.

Farewell brave climber. You always climbed like an angel, now you climb with them.

Cycling seems so much duller already.

Ride In Peace

Laurence Arnold
London, UK
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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Another myth escapes

Another myth has escaped to heaven to take his last finish.

Marco Pantani was an artist, an artist of cycling, a sport where riders have to live for cycling, eat for cycling, sleep for cycling and ride a hundred kilometers, a hundred miles everyday even it is raining, snowing or sun heats the road to hell.

Marco Pantani decided one day, probably when he was kid, to be a cyclist. He only wanted to arrive in first place when hills going up.

We really don't know what he wanted so, maybe because he liked to be a cyclist like he used to watch on TV, maybe because he wanted to stand out and make his parents, his family and his friends to feel proud of him, or maybe just because he wanted to show people something, maybe because of everything.

When I watched Marco Pantani climbing, I watched a person fighting against adversity, even if he was in first place, in last place or helping his partners, helping Garzelli to win the Giro when everyone expected to see to Pantani in pink.

He had a big heart, he was a great person, we always remember you and I will always picturing you when another hero gets to your curve in Alpe d´Huez.

See you Marco.

Miguel
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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A giant

The cycling world has lost a giant.

He will be missed by all of us.

Dave Wood
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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Godspeed

Godspeed Marco.

Byron Holt
Sunday, February 15, 2004

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Recent letters pages

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  • October 24 letters - Tour 2004, New Pro Tour, What goes on the road stays on the road, Bobby Julich at world's, The Brits, Closure on the Mario Cipollini reign, World's absentees, Mario Cipollini, US media coverage, Heather French Henry, Jan Ullrich to T-Mobile - Whither Vinokourov?, Kelme's real problem, Every Second Counts--incorrect account?, Raimondas Rumsas debacle, Six Day Racer, UCI outlaws CX disc brakes, US$4000+ rear derailleur, Amateur racing in Spain
  • October 17 letters - What goes on the road stays on the road, THG, David Millar & the Brits, Every second counts -- incorrect account?, Hamilton course, Heather French Henry news piece, Viva Hein Verbruggen, Jan Ullrich to T-Mobile - Whither Vinokourov?, Bobby Julich at world's, Kelme's real problem, Lance Armstrong, Mario Cipollini, UCI rankings, What's that on Igor's bike?, Two Grand Tours with two different riders, Cycling etiquette, Amateur racing in Spain, Six-Day Bike Rider, Medal chewing
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  • October 1 letters - Caffeine and sport, Vuelta? What Vuelta?, WADA rule changes, A sleepy thank you to WADA, Clear Channel, Roberto Heras, George Hincapie and Roberto Heras, Goodbye Saturn, Gran Fondo del Monte Grappa, Greg LeMond, Lance Armstrong's divorce, Suggestion for the big Tours, Supplements, UCI rankings, Ullrich's comments on Luz-Ardiden, Cycling etiquette
  • Letters Index – The complete index to every letters page on cyclingnews.com