Banned Italian rider Riccardo Riccò has confirmed to Cyclingnews that he plans to prove his credentials as one of the world's best climbers - by attempting to set new record times on some of cycling's most notorious ascents.
Riccò said on Wednesday that he will take aim at three or four legendary climbs, including the Mont Ventoux, in June or July 2014.
"The Ventoux is inked in, but I still have to decide on the other ones. One might be the Galibier, another could be Alpe d'Huez, but I don't know yet. It's all still in the planning stage. They'll be famous Giro and Tour climbs, that's for certain," the self-styled "Cobra" said.
Riccò's fascination with Mont Ventoux apparently blossomed in June this year, when French magazine l'Acheteur Cycliste invited him to their "Ventoux Night Session", a mass-participation, twilight ride to the "Giant of Provence's" summit. Riccò said today that, on that occasion, he paid no attention to how long the ascent had taken him, but that in 2014 he'll be gunning for the 55 minutes and 51 seconds set by Iban Mayo in a mountain time trial at the 2004 Dauphiné Libéré.
"I've got a feeling that'll be hard to beat, though," Riccò conceded.
Given that the 30-year-old is currently serving a 12-year doping ban - and has appeared largely unrepentant in rare interviews since his most recent offence in 2011 - it seems legitimate to ask whether he will attempt the records without doping.
"Of course!" he responded emphatically to that question today. "I'll be on top, top form but clean, yeah."
Riccò wouldn't elaborate on possible commercial offshoots of his record bids, but it seems likely that a sponsor will provide some kind of backing and seek some public exposure. Riccò maintains a good relationship with the Giordana clothing company and bike manufacturer Cipollini. Although currently unemployed, he also clearly plans to make a living out of cycling in the future.
"I've got a few irons in the fire, in the sport. We'll see what happens," he said on Wednesday.
In an interview with Spanish website Ciclismo International earlier this week, Riccò even hinted that the arrival of a new UCI president, Brian Cookson, had given him fresh hope of seeing his doping ban reduced.
"If I can collaborate and it helps me to get racing again sooner, I'll collaborate," he said.
One thing that the Cobra will apparently not be doing, at least not any time soon, is following through on previous threats to rock professional cycling with a tell-all memoir. Asked for his reaction to Michael Rasmussen's autobiography and news today of the numerous damning claims therein, Riccò sounded distinctly unimpressed.
"If I do a book, it'll be about me, my personality and cycling," he said. "It certainly won't be a book [like Rasmussen's]. They are completely pointless, in my opinion."