Mario Cipollini's Liquigas-Bianchi team has announced that their star sprinter has decided to retire, effective immediately. The 38 year-old, nicknamed the Lion King, is stopping after 17 seasons and 189 victories.
"Announcing my retirement one week before the Giro d'Italia is a painful but honest decision," said Cipollini. "The public will understand. I would have liked to be at the start of the Giro d'Italia in Reggio Calabria looking for the victory again, fighting for the pink jersey... Maybe, an 'old man' like me, who has given a lot to cycling and has received a lot, now has to recognise the right moment to stop. I thank the Liquigas-Bianchi team which has trusted me and deserves all my gratitude. I am honoured to have ended my career as a rider wearing the jersey of such a great team."
Liquigas Sport S.p.A. President Paolo Dal Lago commented, "Mario has always been loyal and responsible with us, both when he started his last season well trained and also today in such a difficult moment. Cipollini has given his final victories to our team as a present (a stage in the Tour du Qatar and the Giro della Provincia di Lucca). He has been a great athlete and I am sure he will still be able to give much to cycling."
Cipollini will hold a press conference next Friday in Milan to further explain his decision.