Mario Cipollini insists his comeback plans are for real, but UCI may well have the final say

Sprint ace aims for Giro return with team that rides his bikes, but likely to fall foul of anti-doping rules

by Simon_MacMichael   March 11, 2012  

Mario Cipollini opens the 2010 Cycle Show (copyright Simon MacMichael)

When it was reported earlier this week that Mario Cipollini, who celebrates his 45th birthday later this month, was planning to return to the pro peloton, many dismissed it as yet another publicity stunt. After all, he has plenty of previous – whether dressing in a toga to celebrate Caesar’s birthday on a Tour de France rest day, or taking to a time trial in an anatomically detailed beneath-the-skinsuit – and he also has some rather nice bikes to flog.

Speaking live by telephone during the Gazzetta dello Sport’s live web streaming of Stage 4 of Tirreno-Adriatico, Cipollini conceded that his plans hadn’t exactly been greeted with open arms by the team management, and joked that he was open to offers, but the project itself is an entirely serious one. 

According to the Italian sports daily, there are three principal reasons why Cipollini is planning a return to the sport. First, there is the experience he can pass on to the young riders within the squad, as well as potentially acting as leadout man to sprinter Andrea Guardini, already winner of six races this season and due to make his Giro debut in May.

The newspaper points out that with Pippo Pozzato looking to score his own stage wins rather than being deployed in aid of others, only Oscar Gatto can fulfil that role at present.

Secondly, Cipollini is said to be making himself available as a guinea pig to a group of sports scientists who want to study the effect of the passage of time on the performance of elite athletes.

Among those keen to become involved are Paolo Menaspà, formerly of the Centro Mapei, has expressed an interest, backed by Perth’s Edwin Cowan University and the Australian Institute of Sport, to study the effects of age on a sprinter’s capacity to compete.

Finally, there is a charity angle too to Cipollini’s proposed comeback, with the cyclist pledging any money he earns to go to a variety of good causes.

According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Cipollini has already contacted the UCI to start clearing any administrative hurdles that might have to be overcome, although one of those – the fact that a rider must be part of the anti-doping testing pool for six months prior to competing – could well be insurmountable.

The UCI came under criticism three years ago when it waived that rule to allow Lance Armstrong to make his comeback in the 2009 Tour Down Under, with the Texan was outside the six months by a couple of weeks.

It seems unlikely the rules would be stretched further for Cipollini, who himself acknowledges that anti-doping rules need to be respected before he can take part in a WorldTour race.

Nevertheless, the former world champion is training hard to get himself down to racing weight; currently 86 kilos, he aims to be down to 80 by early May.

For the Lucca-born cyclist, it’s certainly not about the money; Cipollini, who once joked that if he hadn’t become a cyclist he would have been a porn star, revealed that he has turned down an opportunity to appear on the TV show L’Isola dei Famosi [the Italian equivalent of I’m a Celebrity…] for four years in a row.

According to a Gazzetta journalist who has watched him train, the shape he is in already suggests that there’s a bit more to Cipollini’s proposed comeback than mere wishful thinking – although the UCI might well have the final say on that.

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Potential for Awesome.


posted by kaptnkrunch [57 posts]
11th March 2012 - 23:19


I can't wait.

posted by mattb789 [21 posts]
12th March 2012 - 12:11


He's been critical of Cav's domination of the sprints recently and has previously called him 'fat' and warned him last year that he was wasting his talent.

Can't wait for a head-to-head between those two. Is Cav likely to do the Giro this year?


posted by arrieredupeleton [585 posts]
12th March 2012 - 13:51


Cav's down to do the Giro, yeah - although if Cipollini were there, he wouldn't be going head to head with him. Consummate showman that he is, he knows there'd only be one outcome of that particular race.

I'd have loved to have seen them go up against each other with each at their peak, mind (which Cav may well not have reached yet).

Here's what Cipo himself said to us when we spoke to him back in 2010: "“I’d love to see Cipollini’s train against that of Cavendish, if such a thing could ever happen. I don’t know who’d win, but I’d really like to see it.”

Got to love the use of the third person, too Smile

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [9105 posts]
12th March 2012 - 14:43


....and the humility he displays in offering his body to medical research.Will the research consider how self-confidence, recollection of past successes and general awesomeness increases as one ages?

I didn't necessarily mean head to head in sprints but Cipo barging his way into the Sky lead-out train would be worth travelling to Italy to see.

I thought Cav was due to be changing nappies and enduring sleepness nights in May. He mentioned something about tapering down after Milan San Remo and then gearing up for Le Tour. Suppose it doesn't mean he won't do a Cipo and ride a few flat Giro stages before a strategic dismount at the bottom of the Stelvio or somewhere.


posted by arrieredupeleton [585 posts]
12th March 2012 - 16:53


In Cav's case I imagine tapering means a day off the bike for the birth and perhaps a day or two after. He'll still need to get the training in.

The big goals this year are obviously MSR and the Tour/Olympics, but he's still after stage wins in the Giro - Rod Ellingworth said they were targeting it a few days ago.

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [9105 posts]
12th March 2012 - 17:49


I must admit I miss the lion king's presence from the pro cycling scene and part of me wishes to see him ride again. He brought humor, irreverence, color (all great marketing) amazing bedon throwing skills (far better that Tom Steels)to the peloton and was not too shabby a sprinter to boot! and he now make some great bikes. But seriously Cav vs the lion king would only be embarrassing for Mr Cipollini. Mario was always one for getting off as soon as road went up and at almost 20 years Cavs senior this one more hill Mario should avoid. So please leave me with my found memories.


posted by lushmiester [156 posts]
12th March 2012 - 18:43


Why is it I can't bring myself to hate either Cipollini or Silvio Berlusconi?

posted by wild man [291 posts]
12th March 2012 - 23:42


@Lushmeister - you forgot his flash suits that he would change into for the podium, attracting fines for not wearing the sponsor's kit on the photograph that mattered. Law unto himself, but definitely a character.

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice...

posted by notfastenough [3643 posts]
13th March 2012 - 9:36


My understanding and may have just made this up, Cav will be at the Giro, but only for the first week/ish until it starts going uphill, then he'll sack that and get ready to TdF targeting the green again Thinking

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posted by Gkam84 [9239 posts]
15th March 2012 - 0:39