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Mario Cipollini
Cipollini riding the 2004 Tour de Georgia
Cipollini riding the 2004 Tour de Georgia
Personal information
Full name Mario Cipollini
Nickname Lion King, Cipo, Mooie Mario (Pretty Mario)
Date of birth March 22, 1967 (1967-03-22) (age 42)
Country  Italy
Team information
Discipline Road
Role Rider
Rider type Sprinter
Professional team(s)1
1989–1991
1992–1993
1994–1995
1996–2001
2002
2003–2004
2005
2008
Del Tongo
GB-MG
Mercatone Uno
Saeco
Acqua & Sapone
Domina Vacanze
Liquigas
Rock Racing
Major wins
Giro d'Italia, 42 stages
Points competition (1992, 1997, 2002)

Tour de France, 12 stages
Vuelta a España, 3 stages
Arc en ciel.svg World Road Champion (2002)
Milan-Sanremo (2002)
Gent-Wevelgem (1992, 1993, 2002)

Infobox last updated on:
February 17, 2008

1 Team names given are those prevailing
at time of rider beginning association with that team.

Mario Cipollini (born 22 March 1967 in Lucca, Tuscany), often abbreviated to "Cipo", is a retired Italian professional road cyclist most noted for his sprinting ability, the longevity of his dominance (his first pro win came in 1989, his last in 2005; 191 victories in all) and his colourful personality. His nicknames include Il Re Leone (The Lion King) and Super Mario. He is regarded as one of the best sprinters of all time, and probably the finest of his generation.

Contents

Career

Cipollini's career highlights include the Road World Championships and Milan-Sanremo in 2002, and 42 stages in the Giro d'Italia. Cipollini's 42nd Giro stage win in 2003 - his last stage win in that race - broke the record by Alfredo Binda that had stood since 1933. He also won 12 stages in the Tour de France and three stages in the Vuelta a España. In the 1999 Tour de France he led the peloton on the fastest stage in the history of the Tour, averaging more than 50 km/h over 194.5 km.[1] In the same Tour, he won 4 stages and set the post-WWII record for consecutive stage wins. He has also found success in Belgium, winning Gent-Wevelgem in 1992, 1993 and 2002 (record).

At the peak of his career, Cipollini's speed was unrivaled, and he is credited with being the first rider with a sprint train. The red jerseys of his Saeco/Cannondale team were commonly seen at the front of the peloton toward the end of the flat Grand Tour stages in the late 1990s. The train kept the pace high in the closing kilometers, to dissuade opposing riders from attacking and to ensure that in the final 200-300 meters, Cipollini was the only cyclist able to maintain the speed. This changed the way teams approached mass sprints and bred a new generation of sprinters such as fellow Italian Alessandro Petacchi.

The beginning of 2002 saw Cipollini win Milan-Sanremo with his new Acqua-Sapone team, and later Gent-Wevelgem. However, a falling out with the organizers of the Tour de France made him announce his retirement. Italian national coach Franco Ballerini convinced him to return to competition, and built the Italian national team around Cipollini for the 2002 UCI world championship. Cipollini won the rainbow jersey in a sprint finish in Zolder, Belgium.

In the 2003 Giro d'Italia Cipollini focused on Alfredo Binda's record 41 Giro stage wins while in the world champion's jersey. His attempt was almost derailed by Alessandro Petacchi of the Fassa Bortolo team. After many failed attempts, he finally broke the record, although he had to abandon the next stage due to injuries in a crash on a rain-soaked finish. He said that the crash ended his career. His team, Domina Vacanze-Elitron, was left out of the Tour de France that year, prompting a comment from Cipollini that the organisers disrespected the rainbow jersey. When he retired from the 2004 Giro due to another crash, it was the only time he entered the Giro without winning a single stage.

In 2008, he returned to competitive cycling with the Rock Racing team at the Tour of California.

Controversy

Cipollini made no secret that he did not like climbing stages, and he infuriated purists by not attempting mountain stages. He would return to Italy after the flat stages of Grand Tours so as not to be seen struggling.

Cipollini also became infamous for extravagant clothing, especially racing uniforms, sporting custom-made skin suits. Some of memorable kits include a muscle suit,[2] zebra,[3] and tiger[4] prints, and a techno-skinsuit[5] inspired by the 1982 movie Tron. Off the course, Cipollini and his Saeco squad dressed as ancient Romans during a rest day at the 1999 Tour de France, to celebrate Julius Caesar's birthday and to commemorate Cipollini's record fourth consecutive Tour de France stage win. He was fined for wearing an all-yellow outfit while leading the Tour de France.[6]

These antics violated UCI regulations, which resulted in Cipollini and his team being fined thousands of Swiss francs. The muscle suit fetched 100 million lira (US$43,710) in a charity auction, nearly 100 times the fine. Some organisers, especially Jean-Marie Leblanc of the Tour de France, took offence at his hijinks and he wasn't invited to race in the Tour from 2000-2003, despite being the world champion in 2003. Later in 2003, he drew the ire of the organisers of the Vuelta a España when he quit after the prologue time trial. His team had been invited to compete with the condition that Cipollini participated. He said he was recovering from injury and should not have been forced to race in the first place.

Lifestyle

Cipollini's powerful performances sometimes risked being eclipsed by his flamboyant manner and lifestyle. His height, looks and mane of hair earned him the nickname Lion King, and he adopted other names, including Super Mario and Mario the Magnificent. His wardrobe consisted of hundreds of suits, ties and shoes, many of which he never wore. In 2002 he was arrested for motorpacing on an Italian autostrada. He commented that it was the only place where he could safely get up to top speed for training. He responded to criticisms by claiming that he helped generate coverage for his sponsors, and that it was all part of his showmanship.

Cipollini, despite being married through much of his career, was regarded as a sex symbol and rumored to be a womaniser. He did little to dispel these notions with comments such as, "If I weren't a professional cyclist, I'd be a porn star".[7]

Daniel Coyle's book Lance Armstrong's War says Cipollini's profile was little more than a decoy. The intent was that competitors would find themselves distracted by the constant media coverage of Cipollini, and demoralised by the impression that he could party all night and beat them the next morning.

Despite this boisterous public image, Cipollini could often be quite humble regarding his fellow cyclists. After breaking Alfredo Binda's record for Giro stage wins he remarked he would have been happy "just to polish [Binda's] shoes." Reacting to the 2004 death of Marco Pantani, Cipollini said, "I am devastated. It's a tragedy of enormous proportions for everyone involved in cycling. I'm lost for words."

Retirement

After having vowed to retire several times in his career, usually in a public fit of pique, Cipollini finally made good on his promise on April 26, 2005, one week before the start of the 2005 Giro. His swan song was to participate in a ceremonial prologue of the Giro wearing a fluorescent pink skin suit, which listed his 42 stage wins.

Cipo emerged from retirement in early 2008, with Rock Racing. His first race back was the Tour of California, and he finished 3rd on stage 2. On the eve of the Milan-San Remo, he announced that he would retire again; citing disagreements over his leadership role on Rock Racing.

Mario Cipollini in the Prologue of the 2008 Tour of California

Major results

  • Tour de France: Career: 12 stage wins; 6 days in maillot jaune; 2 days in maillot vert
    • 1993: 1 stage win; 2 days in maillot jaune;
    • 1995: 2 stage wins
    • 1996: 1 stage win
    • 1997: 2 stage wins; 4 days in maillot jaune; 1 day in maillot vert
    • 1998: 2 stage wins
    • 1999: 4 stage wins
  • Vuelta a España: Career: 3 stage wins
    • 2002: 3 stage wins
  • Milan-Sanremo (1.HC): (2002; 2nd 1994, 2001)
  • Gent-Wevelgem (1.HC): (1992, 1993, 2002; 2nd 1991)
  • Paris-Nice (2.HC): Career: 7 stage wins
  • 1992: 3 stage wins
  • 1993: 2 stage wins
  • 1994: 2 stage wins
  • Tirreno-Adriatico (2.HC): Career: 4 stage wins
    • 1999: 1 stage win
    • 2002: 1 stage win
    • 2003: 2 stage wins
  • Tour de Romandie (2.HC): Career: 12 stage wins and 1 points classification
    • 1995: 2 stage wins
    • 1996: 3 stage wins
    • 1997: 3 stage wins
    • 1999: 1 stage win
    • 2000: 2 stage wins; Points classification winner
    • 2001: 1 stage win
  • Volta a Catalunya (2.HC): Career: 11 stage wins
    • 1995: 3 stage wins
    • 1996: 2 stage wins
    • 1998: 4 stage wins
    • 1999: 2 stage wins
Other one-day and stage races
  • Giro della Provincia di Lucca (1.1): (2005)
  • Cala Millor - Cala Rajada (1.4): (1999)
  • Manacor - Manacor (1.4): (1999)
  • Monte Carlo - Alassio (1.4): (1995)

References

External links

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Óscar Freire
UCI Road Race World Champion
2002
Succeeded by
Igor Astarloa
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
United States Lance Armstrong
Vélo d'Or
2002
Succeeded by
United States Lance Armstrong
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