Mario Cipollini has insisted that he is serious about his plans to return to professional cycling at 45 years of age and has dismissed the idea that his potential comeback is inspired by financial gain.
“For me going out on the bike and suffering is part of my system,” Cipollini told gazzetta.it. “I’m not the classic ex-cyclist who retires from racing and puts on a belly and who likes to have a glass of wine or whatever. I still have a way of life and diet that means that I still have good sensations when I make an effort on the bike.”
Cipollini’s stated intention to return to action in the colours of Farnese Vini-Selle Italia and lead out Andrea Guardini in the sprints at the Giro d’Italia was firmly knocked back by team manager Luca Scinto during the week.
“I said that because the team is sponsored by my bikes but I seem to understand that the management would not welcome this, so I’m putting myself on the market a bit,” Cipollini explained during a broadcast of Tirreno-Adriatico. “If there’s someone who wants to take a punt on Cipollini, I’m here. Who knows what will happen, but if the world of cycling will allow me to present myself at an important race like the Giro d’Italia, I would be the happiest man in the world.”
Cipollini denied that his touted comeback was motivated by financial concerns, and pointed out that he had repeatedly resisted overtures from the producers of an Italian reality television show in recent years.
“For four years in a row, I was courted by the producers of L’Isola dei Famosi. I turned them down and I turned down hundreds of thousands of euros because of that. If I needed the money I would have gone and done that.”
Instead, there is a hint of escapism about Cipollini’s bid to return to the peloton. “In a way, it is like going back in time but with the maturity and the knowledge that it [cycling] is an absolute beauty, a world apart. It’s like leaving the problems of reality behind without losing sight of the responsibilities that you have.”
The largest stumbling block to any Cipollini return is his compliance with the UCI anti-doping system. Current regulations require riders mounting a comeback from retirement to be registered on the whereabouts programme for six months before returning to competitive action, meaning that Cipollini would be unable to start the Giro d’Italia even if he succeeded in finding a team.
“We’ve just come into contact with the UCI, and for them it’s also something quite new,” Cipollini said. “At the moment there are email exchanges between my lawyer and their legal office to see what we have to do.”