Cipollini stuns with suggestion he could return to pro cycling
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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Cipollini stuns with suggestion he could return to pro cycling

by Shane Stokes at 4:38 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Italian sprinter says he’s still fit and can succeed in his aims

Mario CipolliniOne of the world’s greatest-ever sprinters, Mario Cipollini, has floated the possibility that he might return to cycling, despite being just over two weeks away from his 45th birthday.

The flamboyant Italian has made the surprising suggestion to La Gazzetta dello Sport, saying that such a return would be partly an experiment and partly assistance to one of the most promising young riders from that country.

"My engine is still intact,” he said. “Science can benefit from it. What happens to the body of an athlete after his career? How would it react to a comeback at the highest level? Look, I'm 45 but do not feel old. I train a lot, both with pros and amateurs.”

Cipollini was world road race champion in 2003 and won almost 200 pro races in the course of a.seventeen year pro career Those victories include 42 stages in the Giro d’Italia, twelve in the Tour de France and three in the Vuelta a Espana, as well as three editions of Gent Wevelgem, one of Milan-Samremo and the Italian road race championships.

He retired prior to the 2005 Giro, going out with flair when he received permission from the organisers to ride the prologue as a farewell to his fans. He wore a skinsuit bearing the locations of his 42 stage wins.

Cipollini briefly returned to the sport with the Rock Racing team in 2008, riding the Tour of California with the Rock Racing team and taking third on a stage. He retired again after disagreements with the team owner Michael Ball, but continued to keep in shape.

He believes that he can still compete at a good level. “I weigh 90 kg, eight more than when I was on top. But those eight kilogrammes are muscles. It would be a bit daunting for my back and my knee, but my engine is intact. I am able to take this bet.

“Did Michael Schumacher return to F1 for the cents? No, for the passion. Cycling is for me a religion.”

Aside from coming back for those reasons, he said that he’d also like to do it to help one of the Farnese Vini Selle Italia riders, Andrea Guardini. The young sprinter has just returned from the Tour de Langkawi where he won six out of the ten stages and set a new record of eleven career stage wins there.

As Guardini told VeloNation during the race, he is set to ride his first Giro d’Italia and is targeting a stage victory there.

“Andrea has talent and is riding one of my bikes,” said Cipollini. “It would be nice if I pull the sprint for him in the Giro, against Cavendish. How many victories we would take?"

Should Cipollini indeed make a firm decision to return, he would need to get a green light from the UCI to do so. One of the conditions would be that he is in the out of competition testing pool for at least six months.

If that is done and the comeback does go ahead, it would generate huge interest in Italy and elsewhere.


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