Pantani. The man. The myth. The artist. (Bob Roll. The man. The myth. The suitcase)

Although I'm known to all of you as an endlessly talented wordsmith, I have to admit that I too am speechless from time to time. It doesn't happen often, but when it does...there's a real reason why. For example, a couple of days ago I was speechless and amazed when I saw that no one, and I mean no one, was willing to pay $50 for Bob Roll's old suitcase. So while cycling publications are bragging about the sport's growth in the United States because of Armstrong's return, I choose to see this event (which I shall refer to as The Bob Roll Suitcase Debacle) as a sign of the sport's decline in these United States.

This is Bob Roll's old suitcase, not Phil Liggett's "suitcase of courage"

The Debacle aside, there are other reasons why I'm speechless from time to time. Just today, for example, I found myself at a loss for words. Why? because I discovered the image you see below. Well, when I say that I "discovered" it, I actually mean that I saw it on this blog, but that's besides the point.

The artistic works that you see before your eyes are the creation of none other than Marco Pantani. Yes ladies and gentlemen, the man who was known for climbing on the drops, his bleached goatee and his sweet bandanas had another side that few knew about. Like so many other Italian renaissance men, Pantani was a painter. Like any true artist, Pantani's artistic output was as varied as his muses were...namely Al from the groundbreaking TV show Home Improvement, and ice skating legend Tonya Harding.

Never one to shy away from controversy, Pantani tackled subjects that were taboo in his native Italy. I mean, just look at that painting of Al from Home Improvement. How many other cyclist painters are willing to portray bear icons in their work?

Look, I know that criticizing the artistic output of a beloved icon (particularly one who passed away in such an unfortunate fashion) can be a touchy subject. As such, I'm trying to present these in as neutral of a manner as possible. Believe me, I'm shaking and nearly bursting at the seams with things I could type right now...but I'm holding back. I've already been accused of being a heartless prick enough times in my life, so I'll simply try to share these with you and let you make up your mind.

In an astonishing display of his prophetic abilities, Pantani produced this painting (called "The Ability To Deliver Upon Previously Speculated Potential") about Tom Danielson, and his future Grand Tour victories. Please note that at the time of Pantani's death (2004), Danielson was a neo-pro, which makes the prophecy (and this painting) that much more powerful.

Wait. What? Amy, our Cycling Inquisition fact-checker/intern has just informed me that Tom Danielson has not only failed to win a grand tour, but that he also fails to finish them due to tummy aches. Scratch what I said about Pantani being a prophet. The dude was way, way off.

This one is called "Stench Emanating From My Moist Bandana"

Cycling aside, I will say the following purely in the interest of art history and criticism. Pantani's paintings, his linework and color choices in particular, have some precedent within the world of painting. Three artists come to mind when appreciating Pantani's work. First, John Wayne Gacy:

Another master who clearly influenced Pantani was Kiss frontman Paul Stanley, whose effortless brushstrokes (like his lack of guitar playing skills) have influenced entire generations.

Lastly, I also noticed some similarities between Pantani's work and that of space visionary, and abduction-victim Riley Martin.

These are merely the views of an amateur art critic (me). What do you think? Would you buy one of these paintings and proudly display it in your living room? I've taken the liberty of mocking up how one of these would look in a finely furnished living room (courtesy of the fine folks at Crate and Barrel). Let me know your thoughts. Please.

To the person who always comments that I probably don't have "a tenth of the talent" of any pro cyclist I make fun of....uh...yeah, duh. Calm down. These are just hilarious jokes of the highest quality, and they are free. You should be thanking me. And in case you're wondering...yes, I too suspect that Pantani was just a tiny bit stronger on the bike than me. But only a little.

Extra credit:

See more of Pantani's work here.