Looking for number 188
By Tim Maloney, European Editor in Milano
Call him what you will: Re Leone, Cipolla, Super Mario, jet-set cycling superstar, the Lion King, Cipo, Mega-Mario...no matter what you call him, at 37 years old and counting, Mario Cipollini is by far the winningest active rider in professional cycling. With 187 career wins, they take up so much space (an entire page) in his new Liquigas-Bianchi's team guide, there's practically no space left for an autograph.
Cipollini began his seventeenth season as a professional bicycle racer at the Doha International Grand Prix this Saturday in the Gulf State and if looks are any judge, Tuscan speed merchant looks lean, cut and ready to rock. But even Cipo admitted at the Liquigas-Bianchi presentation last Tuesday that although his leadout train might seem solid, it was he himself who is the real question mark. As Linda Perry and the other Non-Blondes wailed away in the background, Cyclingnews had a rare chance to ask the always articulate and outspoken Mario Cipollini at the Liquigas-Bianchi presentation earlier this week.
Cyclingnews: Mario, what do expect to bring to your new team in 2005.
Mario Cipollini: I think it will be constructive, because I'll bring a lot of experience; and I'm sure that it will be positive.
CN: We've heard that in the last few seasons, you might have overcompensated by overtraining; doing too much work.
MC: Perhaps that's right...in any case, in the basic work you do, it might be better to actually do less work than too much. When you make that kind of a mistake, back to back (when you've do too much), it's not easy. On the other hand, if you don't do enough, you're always trying to make up for lost time. For my part, this year I'm convinced that I've worked in a more balanced way through the winter and I'm ready to confront the first races of the season. Then I hope to continue to improve my form and be ready for an appointment that is one of the key races of the season for me. My key races this season with Liquigas-Bianchi will be Milano-San Remo, Gent-Wevelgem and then the Giro d'Italia.
CN: And if things don't go exactly as you want this season?
MC: That's just something that can happen; it's part of the fear that every man has. I think that any of us [professional cyclists] has some fear inside. That's part of the dark side of one's personality...but as far as I'm concerned, I'm very relaxed right now. Because if I look back, I've gotten what I wanted to get from my talent, my world (of professional cycling). I'm a happy, relaxed guy right now; I have a beautiful family and a great life that's waiting for me at home. So once my career is over, I'll have a life that's a great ahead of me. For sure, because I know that in a short time my career will be over and has given me a special knowledge.