Pantani: The Accidental Death Of A Cyclist, film review: A far easier character to warm to than Lance Armstrong

(15) James Erskine, 94 mins
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The Independent Culture

In the wake of the Lance Armstrong scandal, the fate of the Italian cyclist Marco Pantani is sometimes overlooked. He died alone in a hotel room from cocaine poisoning in 2004. The one-time Italian folk hero's reputation had plummeted in the wake of doping allegations.

James Erskine's documentary celebrates his achievements and only discreetly addresses his alleged EPO abuse. Pantani (who in his pomp won the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia in the same year) is a far easier character to warm to than Armstrong. He entered cycle racing because he loved it. That boyish enthusiasm never deserted him.

Nicknamed "the pirate," he had an engaging sense of recklessness and mischief about him. As a climber, he had few rivals. Even a calamitous accident which left one leg shorter than the other didn't derail his career.

The film suggests that ruthless owners and doctors (whom he likened to a Mafia) were responsible for his later problems. This may be a romanticised account but it makes a persuasive case for its subject and makes us understand why, before his fall from grace, he was so adored by every rung of Italian society.