Italy's representation at last weekend's mountain bike marathon world championships in Austria included three very experienced road professionals, the trio of tarmac kids performing admirably in the 104km elite men's event. It was also a case of 'Back to the Future' for one of the three, Dario David Cioni.
Cioni, Mirko Celestino and Gilberto Simoni finished seventh, 15th and 31st respectively in what was a solid showing from the Italians. Full-time mountain bikers Massimo De Bertolis, Mirko Pirazzoli, Johann Pallhuber, Rafael Visinelli and Mike Felderer finished 12th, 27th, 30th, 37th and 43rd respectively to ensure that Italy's contingent all finished within the top 50.
Celestino, who was a professional on the road for the likes of Polti, Saeco and Milram during the past two decades, now dedicates all of his cycling efforts to mountain biking. Two-time Giro d'Italia champion and Serramenti PVC-Diquigiovanni Androni rider Simoni has been a fan of marathon MTB events for some time and has increased his involvement in the off-road scene over the past three seasons.
Cioni, who has ridden for teams such as Mapei-QuickStep, Fassa Bortolo, Liquigas and Silence-Lotto, now rides for ISD Neri on the road. He was the best-placed of the Italian crew in Austria, his top 10 a possible catalyst for a switch to permanent MTB competition.
He's no stranger to mountain biking however, having ridden for the Mapei-Kona MTB outfit in 1997. With notable performances a little 'thin on the road' in recent times, a switch back to the off-road discipline could be the English-born Italian's calling over the next few years.