the post

book reviews

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man on the run: the life and death of marco pantani by manuela ronchi and gianfranco josti. translated by daniel friebe. 231pp illus. robson press 12.99 hardcover.

marco pantani - the life and death

this book is seriously anguish inducing, mostly because we already know the ending before we start reading. i will state at the outset that i was a great admirer of marco pantani - i figure he was one of the most inspiring and entertaining cyclists of the last couple of decades, and undoubtedly one of the finest mountain climbers of all time.

the first four chapters deal pretty much with marco's background, his early years and the beginning of his successful cycling career. we are led through all the moments that brought us to madonna di campiglio when pantani's entire world collapsed around him. it has been said before, but it bears repeating - at the time of his disqualification (on health grounds) on the morning of the penultimate stage of the 1999 giro d'italia, pantani was leading by a massive six minutes. as a cyclist in the top ten, pantani was guaranteed to be tested, as he had been throughout many of the stages of that years race so, with only that day's mountain stage before the final day's procession into milan, there was nothing to be gained from taking any illegal substances. secondly, the uci testers apparently told the press of the positive result before they informed either pantani's team or pantani himself.

there are many unexplained facets of that particular day, but the outcome was effectively the end of pantani's career and ultimately, his life. it appears that pantani sought solace in cocaine during that year, though most of us did not become aware of this until much later on.

manuela ronchi became marco's manager toward the end of 1998 and was still his manager when he died. i have read and heard much said against ms ronchi to the effect that, had marco not remained under her jurisdiction, he would still be alive today. that is certainly not the impression given in 'man on the run', but then it is written by manuela ronchi, and she is unlikely to admit as much on paper.

unfortunately, the book is as much about ms ronchi as it is about marco pantani - a rather unfortunate aspect, if somewhat unavoidable given that marco is not around to give his side of the story.

aside from despairing of every turn downwards that pantani appears to have made, apart from his two stage wins in the 2000 tour de france and reasonable performance in the 2002 giro, the guy you feel most sorry for, is ronchi's husband, who seems to have had to organise his life around his wife running here, there and everywhere to keep marco happy, or to try and keep him out of trouble.

john wilcockson's book, recently reviewed in the post, was much more a celebration of pantani's life and career. manuela ronchi's book isn't, and it's not even really a book about cycling. mixed feelings here - if you want to read of the demise of a wonderful cyclist from one person's point of view, then this is it. it is curiously satisfying to finally discover what really happened in the years after madonna di campiglio, and quite astonishing to discover the faith (often financial) that so many people had in pantani, but i can't say i finished this book feeling on top of the world.

however, it hasn't diminished my admiration for marco pantani. marco apparently always said he'd leave this world the way he arrived - on tiptoe. let's remember him that way.

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a peiper's tale by allan peiper with chris sidwells. foreword by sean yates. published by mousehold press in conjunction with sport and publicity.
12.95 178pp illus. softcover.

a peiper's tale

adrian bell at mousehold press was kind enough to send me a review copy of this new book written by former acbb, peugeot, panasonic and tulip professional, allan peiper. the book arrived in the post on saturday lunchtime and i had finished it by monday. i e-mailed adrian to say it was 'unputdownable' - if the word doesn't exist, then i just created it to describe this book.

peiper always came across as one of the 'good' guys in the peloton (this is not to say that others weren't good) - easy going, quite chatty and no trace of an ego. those of you who have seen the granada tv documentary 'the high life' about the post's favourite, robert millar, will know what i mean. well, once you read this book, you'll find this cheery nature even more impressive than it already appeared.

allan was born in australia, and didn't have what we would call the easiest of childhoods. when only a teenager, he saved enough money to cross from australia to belgium with the sole object of becoming a professional cyclist, having had a modicum of success in his native land.

the book gives us periodic insights into his philosophy of life, which pretty much seems to have kept him well grounded, despite his cycling and marital problems. the foreword is by long time friend and erstwhile peugeot team-mate, sean yates who was at peugeot with peiper at the same time as robert millar. both riders have chapters devoted to them along with such luminaries as maurizio fondriest, peter post (who's reputation for giving riders a hard time was not lost on peiper), gerrie knetemann, robbie mcewan and many other notables.

that great things can happen just when you need them to, gave peiper lifetime friendship with the planckaert family. finding how appalling his 'digs' were in belgium when he first arrived, the family made room for him in their home and generally looked after him in the early part of his career. this continued even to the launch of this book when eddy planckaert and family, with film crew in tow, turned up on the night, unannounced.

'a peiper's tale' covers pretty much all of allan's cycling career, with details from races with peugeot, panasonic and tulip computers, and how he adjusted, or not, to becoming a former professional cyclist. there is no ego in any of his writing, and even extends to criticising himself for not having behaved as he realises he perhaps should have.

allan worked with his wife to promote her burger sales business, but having separated and had to deal with being apart from his son, zane, he is now a directeur sportif with davitamon-lotto (another instance of things happening when you need them to), and by all accounts acquitting himself very well. if you watched eurosport's coverage of the tour of lombardy, you would have heard peiper co-commentating along with david harman - and he sounds just as cheery as he did in 'the high life'.

after reading the pantani book (see below) this was a welcome boost of optimism. this ranks up there with graeme obree's, 'the flying scotsman'. a must for all cycling enthusiasts (and your non cycling friends, come to that).

a peiper's tale is available direct from mousehold press or from amazon. or even your friendly neighbourhood bookshop.

the publisher and author very kindly allowed me to reprint an extract from the chapter on robert millar on that very section of this site. if you'd like to read it, click the robert millar link to your left and select accordingly

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additionally, just as a sort of postscript to the review of rapha's merino training top, the review item has now been handwashed and dried (flat on the floor) as per rapha's washing instructions and, while a little more tedious than the usual chucking of lycra into the washing machine, it arrived at the other end in pristine condition.

so provided you look after these items, they'll look after you and keep you in the style to which you wish to become accustomed

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this website got its name because scotland's graeme obree built his championship winning 'old faithful' using bits from a defunct washing machine

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as always, if you have any comments on this nonsense, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading.

this column appears, as regular as clockwork on this website every two weeks. (ok so i lied) sometimes there are bits added in between times, but it all adds to the excitement.

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