Former world champ-turned-bike maker faces 60-day recovery during trade show season

Former world champion Mario Cipollini has been admitted to hospital this afternoon after a collision with a car while he was training in Lucca.

According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Cipollini required an operation to his left knee after a driver making a turn failed to see him. In the ensuing collision, Cipollini's left knee hit the car's rear light.

Cipollini previously sustained an injury to the same area in a skiing accident. This time he was operated on immediately, but just before going under the knife, the 47-year-old was gloomy about the coming recovery.

"It's bad," he said. "At least 60 days [to recover].

"Aside from the pain, I know that these injuries need a long and arduous rehabilitation. I'll be on crutches and all that for more than 60 days before I return to normal life."

Since retiring in 2005, Cipollini has founded a bike manufacturer under his name and with the Eurobike and Interbike trade shows imminent, this crash could hardly come at a worse time. It will make it hard, he said, to present his bike range at all the shows.

The most powerful road sprinter of his era, Cipollini won 191 races between 1989 and 2005 and is credited with inventing the lead-out train tactic now used by most top sprinters.

He won a record 42 stages in the Tour of Italy, and 12 stages of the Tour de France. However, he never finished the Tour de France and his habit of dropping out before the race reached the mountains led organisers to stop inviting his team, even when he was reigning world champion.

He was famous for flamboyant skinsuits, including the famous muscle suit he wore for the prologue of the 2001 Tour of Italy. He was fined by the UCI for wearing non-regulation clothing, but the suit later sold for in excess of $40,000 at a charity auction.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.