At his peak, Marco Pantani seemed like a character who could have stepped straight from the pages of a comic book, and it’s an impression Il Pirata himself seemed happy to cultivate – remember the pirate-themed saddle, with a caricature of Pantani complete with bandanna and crossed cutlasses that he sat on while winning the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in 1998?
Now, an Italian publisher has released a graphic novel that charts a less happy period of the troubled cyclist’s all-too-brief life, providing an alternative view of the events that led up to his death at the age of 34 in a hotel room in Rimini on Valentine’s Day 2004 as a result of a cocaine overdose.
Called Gli Ultimi Giorni di Marco Pantani [The Last Days of Marco Pantani], the 104-page book is published by Rizzoli-Lizard and costs €16. Scripted by Marco Rizzo and drawn by Lelio Bonaccorso, and explores the rather fanciful conspiracy theory put forward by French journalist Philippe Brunel, a friend of Pantani, in his 2007 book Vie et Mort de Marco Pantani [Life and Death of Marco Pantani] that the cyclist may have been murdered.
That hypothesis, of course, is a million miles away from the generally accepted version of events, outlined for example in Matt Rendell’s authoritative The Death of Marco Pantani but after all, this is Italy, where no piece of headline news is allowed to pass without reference to the influence of ‘dietrologia’ – unseen powers manipulating affairs behind the scenes for their own ends.
Leaving the truth or otherwise of the situation apart, it has to be said that the book is beautifully drawn – you can read the first 18 pages as a PDF by following this link and the book can be bought online here.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.