Dario Cioni has announced his decision to retire from professional cycling with immediate effect, but the Italian will continue to work with Sky in 2012. He is set to take on a communications role at the squad, focused primarily on the relationships with the team’s Italian sponsors and the Italian media.
“I’ve been racing for 20 years and turned 37 in December and know that I can't race forever even though I'd love to,” Cioni said. “One starts to look forward and when Dave [Brailsford] proposed this role I understood it was the right moment to start with the new job.
“I have a degree in international business with sports management and it looks like the perfect way to continue in the sport and with the team.”
Cioni joined Sky on its launch ahead of the 2010 season and he said that he had enjoyed spending the twilight of his career at the British team. “Even though I'd been racing for 18 years beforehand, I've still learnt so much in my two years riding with Team Sky,” he said. “This is the way cycling will go in the future and I'm keen to be part of it.”
The high point of Cioni’s career came in 2004 in the colours of Fassa Bortolo, when he finished 4th overall at the Giro d’Italia, 3rd at the Tour de Suisse and captured the Italian time trial title. All told, the Reading-born rider took part in 19 grand tours over the course of a career that also saw him ride for Mapei, Liquigas, Predictor-Lotto and ISD.
"I would have liked to make it 20 grand tours but I guess you’ve got to stop at some point,” said Cioni. “My first Giro is up there [as a treasured memory] because it’s always special and the Giro I got fourth in is too of course.”
Cioni began his professional career as a mountain biker but made the switch to the road in 2000 after the late Aldo Sassi noted his potential. “At the time I was with the Mapei mountain bike team, Aldo Sassi believed I had a good engine and decided I should have a go on the road,” Cioni explained. “He’s always been very important in my career. I started with him in 1992 and basically he’s been my only coach in my whole career."
Although Cioni has hung up his wheels, he is hopeful that he will be able to maintain his position as part of the newly-formed UCI Athlete’s Commission, which met for the first time last month. “I’ve been the rider representative on what was first the ProTour and is now the WorldTour. I started in 2005 and now I’m one of the representatives on the new group which was wanted by the Olympic Committee,” he said. "It's important to me and it's something I'd like to carry on doing."
Cioni’s leader at Sky, Bradley Wiggins, was among those to pay tribute to his former teammate as the curtain came down on his career. “It was a shame that he had to retire but it happens to everyone at some point,” Wiggins said. “But it’s great to know that he is still going to be around and we’re still going to see him at races. So it's the start of a new career but at the same time he is still very much part of the family.”