“Today I don’t associate cycling with winning, I associate it with terrible, terrible things that have happened to me and people close to me.” Those are Marco Pantani’s portentous, scene-setting remarks chosen for the opening of Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist, which will be released in the UK tomorrow.
The 90-minute documentary, directed by James Erskine (who made One Night in Turin, about the England’s football team’s 1990 World cup final campaign) and produced by Victoria Greogory (Senna and Man On Wire), charts the life of Marco Pantani, who was born in Cesenatico on the Adriatic coast, turned pro in 1992 and became a cycling supernova through the 90s.
‘Il Pirata’, as he was known, hit the apex of his career in 1998 when he won the Giro d’Italia/Tour de France double – a feat that’s not been bettered since. The next year, 1999, his life began to unravel: he was ejected from the Giro on suspicion of doping while in the pink jersey. Despite a return to racing, the fame and the pressure he was under forced him into a spiral of depression that eventually ended with a cocaine overdose in a hotel room, alone, aged 34.
It’s a great film and a sympathetic portrait of an enigmatic sporting icon and the man beneath. The original footage and photography is expertly chosen and hypnotic to watch. The crowd scenes in the aftermath of his death are a reminder of just how much he resonated with the Italian public.
The range of interviewees – Bradley Wiggins, Pantani’s mother, Tonina, Greg LeMond and arguably the world’s foremost authority on the rider, Matt Rendell – gives depth and humanity to the film.
The film is in selected UK cinemas. It will also be released in BluRay on 26 May.
And here’s a trailer to whet your appetite:
Video: plaudits roll in for pantani: accidental death of a cyclist