‘Cipo’ is on the comeback trail again. It’s been recently reported that he’s looking to lend his wealth of experience – a palmares longer than his abundant locks – to Farnese Vini’s sprinter, Andrea Guardini, and even lead his sprint train. Nothing’s been reported on what Oscar Gatto, whose job is to lead the train thinks, although Pippo Pozzato’s been quite loquacious. In addition, Mario’s going to be a guinea pig, as opposed to a lion, tiger or whichever animal all those silly outfits were supposed to represent, for some sports scientists studying the effect of the passage of time on the performance of elite athletes.
So is it all a publicity stunt – one in just a long line of many – to sell his bike range? No, it would appear he’s in earnest. Talking to La Gazzetta dello Sport during Tirreno-Adriatico, Cipollini conceded that his plans hadn’t exactly been greeted with open arms by the Farnese Vini team management, but the project itself is an entirely serious one.
Apparently Cipollini has already been in contact with the UCI to discuss any administrative hurdles, such as the fact that a rider must be part of the anti-doping testing pool for six months prior to competing. This requirement might prove insuperable, although it was waived for a certain Lance Armstrong.
Despite this obstacle, Mario is training hard to reach his racing weight of 80kg by early May. This has been confirmed by a Gazzetta journalist, who has been watching him train and believes there’s more to his proposed comeback than wishful thinking. Although the UCI might still have the final word.
Here’s the Lion King at his finest:
This is a man who’s graced the podium 195 times and invented the famous sprint train! He won the Worlds in 2002 in imperious fashion, the Italian national championship in 1996, holds the record for the number of stage wins (42) in the Giro d’Italia, plus he won three points jerseys. He graced the maillot jaune at the Tour de France where, despite his lack of invites, he won 12 stages and three at the Vuelta. He’s also won Milan-San Remo twice, Gent-Wevelgem four times and recorded seven stage wins at Paris-Nice.
While I’ve never seen him race, I have been lucky to meet him. He’s a very good-looking, naturally charming chap who just oozes sex-appeal. Remember this is the man who famously said:
If I wasn’t a cyclist, I’d have been a porn star.
I don’t doubt it for a moment, Mario! [Er … time for a cold shower? – Ed]