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The Death of Marco Pantani: A Biography [Hardcover]

Matt Rendell
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)

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Book Description

22 Jun 2006

At 9:30 pm on 14 February 2004, former Tour de France winner Marco Pantani was found dead in Rimini. It emerged that he had been addicted to cocaine since Autumn 1999, weeks after being expelled from the Tour of Italy for blood doping. Conspiracy theories abounded - that he was injected in his sleep by a business rival, that the Olympic Committee had framed him, that Italian Industrialists had engineered his downfall, etc etc.

If none of these is entirely true and none of them fully explains Pantani's personal tragedy, none of them is foundationless. This book will debunk the myths and make surprising revelations. About Pantani's personal tragedy, but also about the world of cycling. Matt Rendell has access not only to court transcripts but to many of Pantani's friends and the doctors who treated him.

But Pantani's life is about much more than drug addiction. Lance Armstrong described him as 'more of an artist than an athlete - an extravagant figure...' Despite being plagued with injuries he won both the Giro and the Tour in 1998, something very few cyclists even attempt. He was an inspirational icon, and the remarkable wins against all odds make gripping reading.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Orion; First Edition edition (22 Jun 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0297850962
  • ISBN-13: 978-0297850960
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.7 x 3.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 291,691 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Superficially [Pantani] appears to be a familiar type of sporting self-destructor. Like George Best, Diego Maradona, Alex "Hurricane" Higgins, and so on, he was prodigiously gifted; like them, he couldn't handle success and its aftermath. But, if Rendell is right (and the evidence does seem conclusive) unlike them, he was a pharmaceutical creation almost from the beginning. He was "cycling's greatest cheat"...It is the pursuit of this revelation that makes so readable. (Bryan Appleyard NEW STATESMAN (3.7.06))

an excellent book about the life and death of il Pirata, The Pirate, as Pantani was known. Rendell has interviewed dozens of those closest to Pantani to paint an intimate and sympathetic - if unsentimental - picture...this is also a work of meticulous investigative journalism that shatters whatever doubts anyone could still have about systematic doping in cycling. (Xan Rice OBSERVER SPORTS MONTHLY (2.7.06))

[a] sad, exhaustively detailed and beautiful book...This book, unflinching though it is, serves as a fitting, ambivalent tribute - to the man, and to the dark heart of the sport he loved. (Chris Maume INDEPENDENT (4.7.06))

Matt Rendell must have been a forensic detective in a previous life, because while his research for the chapters up to mdc is particularly impressive, his account of the years of desperation leading to Marco's eventual death is breathtaking...Matt Rendell is to be congratulated on the tenacity of his investigations and for producing such a readable and absorbing account. (

There are three passages in this brilliant but nightmarishly bleak book where, caught up in the excitement of Pantani in his pomp, Matt Rendell switches to the present tense to describe his greatest victories. The writing here is breathless, awe-struck, more evocative and incisive than TV pictures or newspaper reports could ever be. But Rendell, although a fan, is meticulous and painstaking and he investigates the Shakespearean tragedy of Pantani's life as if it were a crime scene. (Angus Batey THE TIMES (22.7.06))

Book Description

Intimate biography of the charismatic Tour de France winner and the world that caused his downfall

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting, disturbing, and quite sad 24 May 2007
By Mark
After a slow start this book becomes "can't put it down" material. Rendell's research is exceptionally detailed and you really get to understand how doping benefits cyclists. Delving into Pantani's personal life is where the book excels, rivets, and upsets though. Reading about his decline and cocaine problems was extremely moving, and even after putting the book down for an evening my mind would still be going over the content. Well worth reading, whether you're a cycling fan or not. The fine line between genius and madness is well revealed here, showing how the gifted Pantani slipped onto the wrong side of the line.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating 30 July 2007
A fantastic exploration of the this amazing cyclist, the allegations of doping, the court battles and his last few days in the hotel room where he was eventually found dead. Rendell has a unique insight to the case, from his interviews and knowledge of this sport and his writing is thrilling, especially as he describes Pantani's various victories. He draws some interesting conclusions concerning whether or not Pantani had a mental illness (I believe as someone suggested that he was bipolar), and asks questions about his ultimate downfall. Highly recommended if you are into cycling or even just want an excellent sports biography.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Giant with Feet of Clay. 20 Nov 2007
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Just because I gave a less than stellar review to Matt's more recent book on the Tour de France, I thought it only fair to contribute my thoughts on this one as well - because it's superb.
Meticulously researched, beautifully written, detailed, moving and horrifying by turns, this book is both a grisly account of the disintegration of a personality, and the story of one of the greatest cycling talents ever. Marco Pantani, Il Pirata as he is known from the piratical headscarf he sometimes wore, was a doper, a cheater and an addict - and one of the most amazing cycling mountain-climbers of all time; a mass of contradictions who still provokes awe and deprecation in equal amounts. Matt Rendell brings out the many sides of this complex personality in his disturbing and sometimes cold-bloodedly factual account.
If anyone should dispute the figures Matt quotes, by the way, there's one small but telling piece of evidence of their authenticity: namely the writer's puzzlement at the .wdb suffix to the filenames of the doping records. Apparently this unfamiliar format made them very difficult to recover! However any old-skool PC user will recognise this as the suffix of an antiquated MS Works Database format, for the simple-minded cut-down database which was supplied with the (surprisingly useful IMO :) ) MS Works suite for pre Win '98 versions of Windows. That Matt was genuinely puzzled by this says volumes for his integrity if you think about it. You couldn't make it up!
But seriously: this is a biography of Il Pirata, from his earliest involvement in cycling to his ignominious death from cocaine overdose in Hotel Residence le Rose, Rimini, in 2004. But the book's title is The *Death* of Marco Pantani; not 'The Life'. If you read this book, you will understand why; Marco, as Matt says, 'had been dying a long time'. This book is immensely sad; it is also a must read for any cycling fan. Highest possible recommendation.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Earnest but not engaging 15 Feb 2012
Matt Rendell was an academic and it shows.
Yes, the research is painstaking, and he cannot be faulted for effort, but the narrative reads more like a phD thesis - too detailed, too intense and too complex.
To be fair, the first half of the book zips along nicely, but like Pantani's career, the second half falls into an abyss of drug tests, cocaine and blood results. At times it feels more like an A-Level Biology text book.
This is not to say that biographies shouldn't be expertly researched. They should. But the skill of the biographer is use the information to create a compelling narrative that makes the pages turn. Rendell doesn't possess that particular gift.
Robert Moore (In Search of Robert Millar), William Fotheringham (Fallen Angel), David Walsh (Kelly) and Daniel Coyle (Lance Armstrong)earned their stripes in journalism and it shows in their writing. For great books that are meticulously researched with narratives that rips along like a peloton with a tailwind, I would recommend the aforementioned books.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed review 1 May 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A good insight into the great man although if you consider a drug using cheat "great" is a matter for personal opinion. Obviously deeply troubled and nuerotic individual who had real talent but let the downside of his success take him to a darker world that money and fame give you access to. Yes this book gives you a great insight into him and his life but i did find it a challenging read with basically boring passages interspersed with the interesting bits. condense this book down to about a third of its length and i would have built as good a picture of the man and enjoyed doing so at the same time
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An unfortunate must read 30 July 2007
I have a framed picture of Marco Pantani hanging in my stairwell. This obviouse admiration has been badly soured by Matt Rendell's book. It was not the revelation of drug taking, like most cycling fans I knew that already, it was Rendell's cliam that Marco was little without the drugs. Rendell's central point is that Pantani was unique more for the way his body fed of EPO, it was this that made him great- he was the best at benefitting from this cheating. Drug use did not create a level playing field of abuse but simply allowed those with access to the most systematic programmes to cheat. The glory of the great climbers is their ability to suffer, it is this that I admired and still do, not their physiological metabolism of EPO.

This is a must read for all cycling fans. Rendell's research is of academic level and integrity and he has to be congratulated for his diligence in getting some very complex biochemistry spot on. He has changed my view of drug use in cycling, they are not all at it and no mater how romantic the charecter Pantani may have been he was a cheat and like Tom Simpson before we should not admire this sort. We should admire those who fight and suffer clean, no matter what their level of success they are the true heros.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Pantani
Big Pantani fan this was an excellent read
Published 13 days ago by Scoobie
5.0 out of 5 stars Vary sad!
A fascinating book clearly well researched. Yet more evidence, if more were needed, of how the huge and stifling commercial interests and pressures brought to bear on sport can... Read more
Published 1 month ago by robert roebuck
4.0 out of 5 stars good account of Marco Pantani
This is a good detailed account of the life of Marco Pantani. I think the author has done a good job gathering so much information on a person who's life only seemed to exist in... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Nt
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 3 months ago by Giuseppe Turri
5.0 out of 5 stars The fall of a climbing legend
A good look into the life of a great cyclist, shows things about pantani that most never knew. Well put together
Published 6 months ago by Allen Mackenzie
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant.
Brilliant, both the writing and the subject. I was expecting the subject to be interesting as I am into cycling but most sports books don't really thrill with there writing style. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Neil
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Excellent book. A little wordy and verbose at times but keep reading and it really pays off. Very sad story but gripping at the same time.
Published 8 months ago by janet coakham
3.0 out of 5 stars good read, too much technical info
A good read about the man Pantani but I found it a bit overwhelming with the depth of EPO and drug taking details it went into.
Published 11 months ago by big8omb
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Read.
Loved this book, fantasticly sad story but a character like no other. A must read for anyone interested in the darker side of cycling and of sport generally.
Published 11 months ago by johnjams4
4.0 out of 5 stars A sad story
Reading this book in the current climate is very interesting. Matt Rendell pulls no punches and presents a good analytical case study. We'll worth a read.
Published 13 months ago by Cunners
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