Having already written the definitive ride report on L'Eroica, I'd like to loiter on "the boot" for a bit, and take a look at the "controversy" surrounding the death of Marco Pantani:
Marco Pantani’s place of death at the Le Rose hotel in Rimini, Italy, was investigated poorly according to his family’s lawyer. A newly-released video taken on the day of his death, February 14 2004, shows police fumbling though the room and appears to support the case.
Careless Italian police officers? I don't believe it.
Here's that video, by the way:
Wow. That detective is either mishandling the evidence or else handling it extremely well, depending on how you look at it.
As for Pantani's death, his family believes he was forced to drink a lethal amount of cocaine for some reason:
Family lawyer Antonio De Rensis pushed for Rimini’s prosecutor to re-open the case after gathering new information. According to a report in Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper in August, he said that Pantani let known men into his room early in the morning. The men hit the 34-year-old cyclist and forced him to drink cocaine diluted in water. They carried his body down the stairs of the bi-level room, left him for dead and purposely made the room to look disorganised.
Sure, people are coerced or duped into drinking deadly potions all the time--in movies. But real life isn't the "battle of wits" scene from "The Princess Bride," nor do people just neatly imbibe liquids because people order them to do so "or else." And the murderers purposely made the room look disorganized? Come on. Murdered or not, there's no question Pantani was a drug addict--and if there's one thing drug addicts are not known for, it's their tidy rooms.
Maybe Biggie and Tupac were also involved.
Another Italian cycling hero who's come under scrutiny lately is Mario Cipollini, who--and you're not going to believe this--may have doped during his career:
"Shadows surround the former sprinter?" Not exactly. Those are just grease spots, like when you put the bacon you just cooked on a section of paper towel.
But while "Cipollini doped" may be news to absolutely nobody, this article does provide some insight into his childhood:
At school, his teachers complained that Cipollini was clever but bone idle or distracted. At home, he wreaked chaos. Aged six, he found the keys to his mum’s Fiat 500 and took it for a spin around the family house in San Giusto di Compito. A few years later, the manager of the Gis team, Piero Pieroni, visited the Cipollini’s to negotiate Cesare’s first pro contract. Pierini remembers Mario being so hyperactive that his parents had to tie him to an olive tree.
That last part may sound strange, but I saw a lot of children tied to olive trees in Italy--though it's worth noting that in Cippolini's region the olive harvest that year was...unusual:
For his part, Cipollini denies paternity and has settled with the Olive People for an undisclosed sum.
Anyway, given his youthful hyperactivity, it seems to me that Cipollini has an iron-clad excuse for any doping, which is that he was simply self-medicating for ADD--or for withdrawal symptoms caused by sexual absinence:
Even to the most world-weary, brutalised observer of professional cycling, La Gazzetta’s allegations amounted to a long and particularly filthy laundry list. Based on documents seized from Doctor Fuentes and displaying a telephone number that the newspaper’s journalists recognised as Cipollini’s at the time, they were able to hypothesise that the sprinter had paid Fuentes over €130,000 for treatments and products including EPO, testosterone, human growth hormone and blood transfusions over four years between 2001 and 2004. The extent, rather than the nature of the alleged crimes, was most shocking: two blood bags in the fortnight before his 2002 world championship road race triumph in Zolder (also, incidentally, the period over which he claimed to have abstained from sex), and 25 in total the following season.
Speaking of stuff that's impregnated and self-lubricating, a number of people have been forwarding me articles about the new $450 Silca pump, which comes with a wooden box, because where do you keep your pump, you Fredly philistine?
The SuperPista Ultimate’s plunger tube is hard-anodized and PTFE impregnated, the same as the stanchions on high-end mountain-bike forks, and it slides smoothly without wobble in a high-precision IGUS self-lubricating plastic bushing in the top cap, even when pulled all the way out. The cup-shaped leather plunger is the same as it always was on Silca floor pumps of yore. It is made of the finest full-grain leather by the same company in Milan’s fashion district that has made it since 1960, using the same machines. (the pump’s check valve is still made by the same Italian vendor who has supplied them to Silca since 1946). Why a leather plunger seal? Just ask pro team mechanics; when going to stage races in Qatar and Oman, they clamor for Silca pumps because they continue to work in sandy environments that destroy the rubber plunger O-rings in most pumps. The sand just collects in the grease in the leather plunger cup, and its lips still seal along the cylinder walls. And like all Silca pumps of yore, you can just pull out the shaft, wipe off the leather washer with your fingers and relube it by filling the cup with grease and keep it pumping indefinitely.
Finally! A sand-specific pump for your sand-specific bike:
If you're as concerned as I am that you may not be inflating your tires to within a 1% margin of error then there's no way around it, YOU NEED THIS PUMP!
This laboratory-grade gauge is accurate to +/-1%, far beyond the standard +/-5% industrial gauge widely found on bike pumps.
The average Fred has no idea how much pressure he should be running in his tires and slavishly obeys whatever arbitrary figure is printed on his sidewalls, but at least with the Silca he can rest assured he's inflating them exactly wrong.
Also, keep in mind that your tire pressure changes with altitude, so make sure you stop after every meter climbed or descended and re-adjust your pressure as needed.
Of course, for best results, you should always use your precision pump in conjunction with a tire pressure smartphone app:
Simply enter your weight, your bicycle's weight, the width of your tire, the width of your rim, your frame tube angles, your stem length, your saddle setback, the make and model of your bib shorts, the hardness of the road surface dressing, the ambient temperature, and your local AQI (Air Quality Index), and the app will inform you of the exact location of the nearest psychiatrist.
By the way, the commonly-accepted medical treatment for Tire Pressure Obsessive Disorder is to tie yourself to an olive tree.
Lastly, while we're looking at obsession, here's a video about the world's tallest tall bike:
I wonder what pressure he was running.