I’m not entirely sure what this post is even for. Perhaps it’s my own form of therapy or catharsis. In the past I had created commemorative graphics but this year I wasn’t planning anything. However, as the anniversary of Marco Pantani’s death approached, the negative/positive/middle-of-the-road chatter increased. What’s been interesting is the rise in intensity on all sides. The anger has been acutely vile. The love, more blind. And the fence-sitters feeling the effects of attempting to balance them both. I simply couldn’t ignore it any longer—Pantani has become the unofficial figurehead of coming to terms with cycling’s doping past and present.
To this day we’re collectively clawing our way out of a chasm we participated in digging. One whose sides are perpetually caving in on themselves. We demanded amazing. We celebrated improbable. We idolized hollow. We ignored nagging doubt. Now that we’ve experienced these emotions we struggle with how to resolve them. Many have rushed to separate themselves and incinerate the past. Others carefully curate memories preferring to ignore truth’s open wounds.
I don’t want to ruin my memories. Or, I should say, ruin them any further. Some of my greatest cycling recollections saw their genesis during Armstrong’s run towards inevitable infamy. Despite this, I willingly participated in his takedown. Everything I reveled in during those years has been razed to the ground.
Pantani’s epic moments certainly taste different now—there’s no going back. I see this situation globally and know the myriad of consequences resulting from he and his contemporaries (past & present). I realize the variables in rejoicing watching him destroy Ullrich in ’98. I realize the irony of feeling remorse at his positive hematocrit pop in the ’99 Giro. I’m also painfully aware of the paradox of reviling Armstrong and celebrating Il Pirata.
Where does this leave us? There is no easy answer. We just discovered how the sausage was made. Despite how much we’re working to change the future recipe, it doesn’t change how much we thoroughly enjoyed its consumption in the past.