Mirko Celestino has decided to retire from road racing after 12 seasons as a professional, staring as a stagiaire with Polti in 1995. The 33 year-old Italian has one more year left on his current contract with ProTour Team Milram, but will not continue into 2008.
"Definitively, at least in regards to professional cycling," confirmed two-time winner of Milano-Torino of his decision to La Gazzetta dello Sport. Celestino, who is from Liguria and lives in Almé (Bergamo), competed in his last race was the Giro di Lombardia, where he finished 74th at 12 minutes back – eight years prior, 1999, he had topped the podium.
"One time I battled for victories, but this year I was battling to make it within the time cut. I lacked the stimulus and the desire to arrive at the front and fight for the win. One thing after another, I started to become worn out, terribly so, even to remain in the gruppo. I always sought to have objectives, but I could no longer concentrate."
Certainly, some of the changes in the last year at Milram have helped make Celestino's decision easier. He started his career with Gianluigi Stanga, the same team manager who has now been replaced by Gerry Van Gerwen at Milram. "It was made clear to me that I did not enter into their plans, so we reached an agreement, for now only verbal. I have looked around; there have been lots of possibilities but nothing concrete. Then I thought if there is so much difficulty in finding a place even in a second tier team then it is the appropriate time to stop."
Celestino, concerned about the current climate in road cycling, sees his future on two (fat) tires. "Cycling is worse then from when I started," he continued. "There is no longer respect for anyone. To this day I still look to a rider like [Gilberto] Simoni with respect, while the younger riders, if you try to give them advice they look at you like you are a moron. The cycling environment makes me nauseous.
"There are too many rules and certain things are exaggerated and amiss. Whereabouts 24 hours of the day, or almost; it is like Big Brother [TV programme].
"I am not [Paolo] Bettini or [Davide] Rebellin," he commented on his career. "I have made my place. Bettini said, 'you have to stay on the ball.' It was him who bettered me in Sanremo  and the Tricolore [2006 Italian Championships]. ... I have closed the door on a certain part of cycling, but not on the sport. I need to define the details, but I will dedicate next year to mountain biking, in a team from my area. The stimulus that I have lost, I will refind it there."