What goes on in Vegas should of course stay in Vegas, unless you're the Lion King, when it's news. And the arrival of Mario Cipollini at the Sinclair Imports mega-party at the uber-trendy JET Nightclub inside the Mirage Casino certainly created some excitement, and not just among the male cycling fans.
The almost-now-retired Italian super-sprinter was one of the major celebrities at the Sinclair Imports party, always one of the social highlights at the Interbike exhibition in Las Vegas, the US bike industry's major annual get-together. Joining 'Cipo' at the bash on Wednesday, September 26, were former Paris-Roubaix winners Magnus Backstedt and Stuart O'Grady, as well as a still-glamorous Rochelle Gilmore, despite the loss of her luggage from the flight across from Italy.
Predictions that the inaugural cyclo-cross events - 'Cross Vegas' -being held across town that same evening would impact attendance proved false, as the conditions inside the swank and very dark nightclub could only be described as heaving. The following evening, some of the road-racing party-goers (ie, professional cyclists) were in action at the final round of the USA Crits, held in the parking lot of the Mandalay Bay Hotel. The well-attended event saw The Lion King don the lycra once again - complete with the rainbow stripes of a former world road racing champion - and he joined in what was a seriously competitive Industry Cup event, open mainly to members of the bike industry who are still racing, and invited VIPs.
For much of the race, a still-trim Cipo held third wheel and looked quite comfortable on the short and curvy parcours, until the final bell lap, when a touch of wheels just prior to the rather tight turn one, less than fifty metres from the start-finish line, took him down heavily. Among the several riders to crash out was a well-known bike industry marketing exec -- who takes his racing rather seriously -- who'd excitedly told Cyclingnews that afternoon how he hoped he wouldn't take out the legendary rider on the tight circuit.
Instead, he will now carry the bruises and road-rash as living proof of the night he was brought down by one of the world's greatest-ever road sprinters. A full report on the USA Crits evening is available on Cyclingnews.