The death of Italian cycling legend Marco Pantani on a February day in 2004 was a very dark day for the sport. He was quintessentially one of the best climbers of the late 1990s and early 2000s, his pinnacle coming in 1998 with a duo win at the Giro D’Italia and the Tour De France. To this day he remains the last rider to achieve that feat. Like all riders in that era, he wasn’t completely without reproach. Doping was prevalent in the peloton in that period so maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that he tested positive for EPO ,a banned substance, in 1999. The arms race like competition for the best dope in those days was something out of this world. Doctors and scientist came up with better and more efficient methods of boosting performances albeit illegally all the time back then. Some riders went as far as getting transfusions of red blood cells before races to boost performances. Pantani had higher than normal red blood cells in his system stemming from the EPO.

Like the likes of Jan Ullrich, Floyd Landis he didn’t handle getting banned from the sport he loves so much very well and fell into a depression. Once he did he spiraled into drug addiction notably cocaine dependency. On the day of his death he was found in his hotel room in his native Italy following which the coroner deemed cocaine poisoning after a mix of anti-depressant drugs and cocaine. More specifically, heart failure was the cause. Now, recently Marco’s mom Tonina has hired lawyers to force a new investigation into his death apparently not satisfied with the cause of his death. New evidence she brought forward indicates that the ball of cocaine found with Marco may have been planted. There was also money missing from his room which doesn’t rule out robbery as a motive for murder. Cuts and bruises on Marco’s arms tell another story too. A struggle maybe? Good luck getting answers from the drug dealer. The guy won’t give answers because well he has a lot to lose.

Like most similar cases, intervention was seriously lacking when Marco needed it the most. Take this , Marco’s ex girlfriend said afterwards that he had confided in him that he was addicted to cocaine but she never helped or acted to get him the help. It is sad that Marco died alone having isolated himself. One cruel thing you can do to an addict is to ignore them even if they don’t like the attention. As for Tonina, the new evidence could be something and also it could be nothing. The question is, is it murder to provide drugs that ultimately kill an addict for which they voluntarily take? The law says no clearly seeing that the drug dealer got acquitted. The issue now left to determine is whether heart failure could have been caused by violence which in turn turns to homicide. I doubt the answers will come out for Tonina especially given that this is now the third investigation. Maybe moving on and cherishing Marco’s memory is the best course of action.


Waterloo is hosting this year’s cyclo-cross world cup round 1. It was wretched conditions all round in the race making it a very difficult day. What is cyclo cross for those not familiar? It is a hybrid form of cycling involving all facets of it, road racing , mountain racing as well as test of endurance in the steeple chasing category. The bikes used here are special purpose ones called cx bikes. Most riders prefer to use gently modified road race bikes with thin tires and lower handle bars so as to easily clear obstacles. The bike has to be as light as possible because you will need to carry it on the steeple chase portion of the race.

Eli Iserbyt the European Champion soloed to victory in Round 1 making a crucial decision to change bike in the second last lap.The muddy conditions meant the tires needed to be spot on in terms of traction. The tire pressure needed to be a little lower than normal to negotiate the muddy roads. The slick course claimed some victims, notably Thibau Nys with a collarbone injury in the second lap and Toon Aerts who crashed into the barriers. Eventual third place finisher Quinten Hermans crashed into the tarmac, check out the clip. He leaned too hard. He would claim it affected his race badly. Just like in Formula one there were pit stops along the way so it was imperative to have the team move fast during the change of bikes sequence and be fully equipped. The key to winning the race was to get to the front of the group from the off when the road was fairly dry. Michael Vanthourenhout with the second place finish.


The final monumental race of the calendar was the 240km Como to Bergamo cliffhanger. Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar outsprinted Italian Fausto Masnada to win his second monument race after Liege-Bastone-Liege and becomes the only the third rider to win the Tour and Il Lombardia in the same year. The Slovenian attacked with 35 km to go leaving behind star fellow break away riders which included world champ Alaphillipe and Adam Yates. The hairpin like corners on the descent at Passo Di Ganda climb were testy. Masnada’s handling of it was superb. He hardly reduced speed and rode the apex of the road, showing that he was familiar with the course.

It was little wonder that the Italian closed Pogacar down and caught the Slovenian, who had opened up a 40 second lead ,at the foot of the hill. However the difference maker was the final hill at 4km. Although Masnada briefly overtook Pagacar on that uphill , the Tour de France champ never lost his composure. He made sure that he was ahead of Masnada in the final 500 meters even by a meter so he could be in control. That way he could determine when to start the dash to the finish. Pagacar is only 23 years of age and won the Tour at 22. To put it into context Contador won it first time at 25 whilst Armstrong at 27. This may not be obvious but this is a major headache for UAE Team Emirates. One, like all sports, young players tend to peak off early so the Team needs to start looking for other great riders ASAP as long term successors. However there are exceptions to the old rider theory. Two, great young riders tend to demand more pay than older especially when they produce results like Taddy.


One day races offer some exciting duals to the finish, this one was no exception. The annual race from Milan to Turn is over 130 years old and full of tradition thus this year’s race has attracted the whose who of men’s cycling. The list included Tour De France winner Pogacar, Primoz Roglic the La Vuelta champ, Adam Yates, Michael Woods the list goes on. Roglic displaying his mountain prowess by besting Yates on the final ascent(one of the traditional two). The race really came to life in the final 50km in which Yates was in the lagging group but caught up.

The start wasn’t as frenetic as I would have hoped given the flat nature of the surface and ideal weather conditions. Yates was really attacking in the climb with 4km to go. My opinion is with late attackers like Valverde and Roglic behind him, holding back until 3.5km to go would have seen Adam win the race. As it played out Yates ran out of gas and vintage Roglic rode alone for the final kilometers. A few lessons in there about riding an ascent. One, give your legs help by thrusting your body forwards whilst also sitting up just like Yates did. Two, the breathing needs to be regulated, breathing in just before the thrust of the foot on the paddle and out just after.


This may be a short race compared to other races on the cycling calendar but it doesn’t rank any lower than them in terms of importance. Points which go towards the UCI World Rankings are up for grabs in this one of the oldest races in cycling. Surprising wet conditions prevailed in France, the first wet Paris-Roubaix in decades. This was mainly due to it being pushed well into the Fall. It was set for another Wout Van Aert and Mathieu Van Der Poel dual to the top of the podium but one of them made it to the podium, only that it wasn’t the favorite.

Wout struggled with the muddy conditions. Racing in such conditions is extremely difficult. One is more likely to crash on the slippery surface if riding at a high speed, so a balance should be struck. Tire pressure should be lower (just a little) than usual and also a rider should switch to higher gear. The corners also become tricky. Check out the clip at the 1:22. A rider , just like in driving, should avoid puddles of water as you do not know what is beneath the water, could well be a gouge there. Choosing the line of riding is also important. Watch the climax of the race, some riders choosing to leave the road and cycle on the harder surface at the periphery of the road.When the conditions dried up it didn’t mean it would become easy, not at all. The tires would be heavy with mud which means you needed to put more effort at the paddles. It was a day for the debutants. Italian Sonny Colbrelli stormed to take the title in his maiden Paris-Roubaix defying his inexperience. What a finish it was, a little breather from the trio at the end there before the mad dash.

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