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The freezing early February weather may have granted Riccardo Ricco a temporary stay of execution by conspiring to postpone his hearing in front of the Italian national doping tribunal, but according to a legend of Italian cycling the 28-year-old rider should not be thinking about continuing in the sport.
Ricco is facing the possibility of a 12-year ban from the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) when the case, which stems from a self-administered blood transfusion in February 2011, is finally heard. Having already served a two-year ban for EPO, his is walking on the thinnest of ice. Ricco has been vocal in his criticism of the Italian cycling authorities and has vowed to seek revenge on those who he says have wronged him but, in the eyes of Mario Cipollini, Ricco needs to forget about revenge missions and think about a different future for the sake of his young son. And he has told him this in person.
“I met Riccardo Ricco last year,” Cipollini told La Gazzetta Dello Sport. “We rode together and talked a lot but I was very clear with him.
“I said: ‘Riccardo, first of all think about your son. Forget competitive cycling, the team and the desire to race again. To prove what? For a sense of revenge against everyone? Sit down to look for a job for the future of your child. You're still young, you cannot spend your whole life chasing a ghost or whatever it was. Take my bike, yes, but not to train or to think of racing.
“‘You have to do one thing: totally forget all about your career as a cyclist. You have to remove this burden and clean up your image. To talk about yourself and find out why you ended up in this situation. You cannot keep torturing yourself. Take these words as if they came from an older brother.’”
Cipollini also lambasted those who were formerly close to Ricco but have now turned their back on him, and stated that the world needs to forgive him and move forward.
“Where are those who have ridden with Ricco now? Those who were with him then, where are they now? In this world of sharks, nobody, nobody is there. Mercy and love are words we are taught as children. We must give him strength and we must reach out for him. I want him to remember the good of cycling. It will not be easy, because he is still wearing the badge and thinking of riding and of revenge. But I repeated many times, a thousand times: ‘Think of your son. Do not dream of the Tour as that world no longer exists. Life is in front of you now. And facing that new road will be your most important victory, the largest of all the tours that you wanted to conquer.’”