Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Reviewed: Pantani - The Accidental Death Of A Cyclist

pantani the accidental death of a cyclist

Inspiring, tragic, sensational, controversial and moving - The story of Marco Pantani is without doubt one of the most powerful in professional cycling and sport as a whole.

Pantini: The Accidental Death Of A Cyclist is a well constructed documentary by James Erskine which explores the life of Marco Pantani, from his rise to fame and glory to doping scandal, withdrawal from the world and tragic death by drug overdose.

The film features interviews from family members, journalists and pro cyclists including Bradley Wiggins, who is well known for his knowledge and passion for cycling's history.

pantani the accidental death of a cyclist

The film is well produced and dances between archive 90's race footage, contemporary interviews and beautiful landscape shots without feeling clumsy which is no easy task and a testament to Erstkine's skill as a director.

The film covers Pantani's story from childhood where on one of his first rides he drops his friends on a borrowed BSO (they are all riding racing bikes). His natural talent is clear and he is soon striding away from the peloton at an amateur level in his teenage years.

Horrific accident and return to glory

Many people will know of Armstrong's comeback from cancer but Pantani's courageous recovery from a horrific crash is in many ways just as incredible. During the 1996 Milano-Torino race Pantani collided with a jeep in a head on collision which should have ended his career.

Doctors at the time said he may never walk again, but Pantani fought back and within a year was back in the pro peloton and winning mountain stages of the Tour de France.

In 1998 Pantani did the unthinkable, winning GC in both the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France. He was the first Italian to do this since Felice Gimondi in 1965 and became a national hero.

cycling epo blood test

However in 1999 he was disqualified for an irregular blood test, a blow to any professional athlete but for Marco it was the catalyst for a chain of events which would ultimately lead to his death.

That blood test understandably turned Pantani's world upside down, his whole life had been dedicated to cycling which inevitably meant a large part of his self image was based upon being a cyclist. Once the value and enjoyment of this was taken away from him through the doping scandal I can only imagine how lost he must have felt.

marco pantani

The subsequent media attention, court appearances and shift in public opinion (at least in Pantani's mind) took their toll on the Italian and his behaviour became erratic, he was paranoid, depressed and became ever more distant from the world around him.

marco pantani funeral

Although the tragic ending is no surprise, the use of achieve video footage and photography addresses how  his death was received by the media and Italian society at the time which highlights the tragedy of Pantani's feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Final word

marco pantani photo

For many Pantini is a symbol of all that was good and bad about pro cycling in the 90's and I think this film does a good job of taking the audience through the highs and lows of Pantani's life which could also be seen as a mirror for the wider crisis pro cycling also went through during this period of time.

The use of some stock footage did get slightly stale (especially towards the end of the film when you've seen the same clip 5 or 6 times) but overall it kept me engaged for the whole 96 minutes which felt like a good running time for a documentary of this type (unlike The Armstrong Lie, which at 124 minutes, even the most enthusiastic cycling fan will need a strong coffee to stay awake through).

'Pantani: The Accidental Death Of A Cyclist' combines jaw dropping archive footage, insightful interviews and a snappy narrative to good effect. I would be very interested to read the book on which the film was based  to explore the extra detail which could clearly not be included in a 90 minute film.

Although cycling fans are going to get more out of this than casual viewers, it is not overly geeky or technical in a way which would be inaccessible to everyone. More to the point, this is a story which touches on many human emotions which everyone can relate to.

Comments welcome below. Copyright for all photos belongs to Soda Pictures.


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