I’ve been looking at upgrading my cycling wardrobe for a while. Especially with winter in full tilt, you simply can not be wearing enough clothing sometimes.
As you may have guessed from this blog, I like retro – besides, I’d look ridiculous riding an old steel frame in modern kit.
Last year I got a few cash/voucher gifts from friends and family, and after a bargain find at a Vide Grenier, I’ve been putting together Mecatone Uno team kit to wear. Through Etsy, Ebay and vide greniers I’ve got hold of; short sleeved jersey and bib shorts, fleece winter jersey and bib tights, and a cotton cap.
Mercatone Uno were an Italian team of the 1990s/2000s, many Italian riders of note from that period wore their colours – Michele Bartoli, Francesco Cassegrande and Mario Cippolini to name but a few, but the team is most closely associated with Marco Pantani. It was with Mercatone Uno that Pantani won the Giro and Tour, and became the sometime bain of Ullrich and Armstrong.
Pantani is a divisive rider. Almost certainly an EPO cheat, his life and career were beset by drama and accident, culminating in his death from a cocaine overdose in 2004. He is still however widely loved in Italy and the world over. Back home, he is up there with Fausto Coppi as an all time great. Even Greg Lemond, who rarely has a good word to say about a doper, says he was the best of his generation. Like Coppi before him, perhaps it was his untimely death that secured his legend status as much as his actions in life – much like British rider Tom Simpson.
Pantani’s main weapon was daring, breakneck paced attacks in the mountains. He would have good days and bad days, but always put on a show for the spectators. Pantani had flair and panache, which makes him much more appealing than the robotic Riis-Ullrich-Armstrong model of a champion in the EPO era. While EPO can’t give you panache, psychoactive drugs can – particularly towards the end of his life, Pantani was a massive abuser of cocaine.
In his widely acclaimed Biography The Death of Marco Pantani, (I highly recommend a read) Matt Rendell paints an endearing picture of a man who was powerful physically but weak psychologically. He comes across as naïve and child like, in which case it’s easier to see him as a victim than perpetrator in those dark days of cycling.
Pantani is one of my favourite riders, warts and all. All I need now is a 1990s Bianchi with Campagnolo Record to complete my homage…