Marco Pantani died on this day in 2004. The Italian cyclist was wildly popular during his career and has become the stuff of legend. Visually recognisable, his exploits on the bike combined with posthumous myth ensure Il Pirata, the pirate, is still famous today.
Swashbuckling on the bike but the reality is less glorious. The song in the video above is by French band Les Wampas, a tribute but one that captures the sad demise of a man dying alone in a seaside hotel during the winter.
Le soir quand l’Italie est triste (In the evening when Italy is sad)
Elle ressemble à Rimini. (It looks like Rimini)
Non mais vraiment qu’est ce qui t’a pris (But really what got into you)
D’aller mourir à Rimini? (To go and die in Rimini)
Matt Rendell’s 2006 book, The Death of Marco Pantani, is a good read if you want to find out more about both the Il Pirate myth and the realities behind it.
If you’re new to the sport then here is a video clip of him in the Giro d’Italia. Watch his team mates churn huge gears, look on as he takes on his rivals one by one with sharp accelerations, note the way he climbs out of the saddle with his hands on the drops, see how smooth his pedal stroke is. Rides like this made him a hero in Italy and beyond, he could change the shape of any race.