Mario Cipollini has predicted that the sprints at the Tour Down Under will be fast and furious, with even a risk of a pile-up in Sunday's Cancer Council Classic criterium.
Cipollini won 191 races during his 16-year career and is widely considered one of the best sprinters of all time. He is never afraid to speak his mind and predicts a tense battle between Andre Greipel and former teammate Mark Cavendish.
"It's going to be a real fight between Greipel and Cavendish, and all the other sprinters will be looking to take advantage of them watching each other. I just hope they don't all go down in the last corner…" Cipollini told Cyclingnews.
"They're going to have to be careful because it's quite a tight circuit and so someone could get hurt. Hopefully they'll be a little bit sensible because at the start of the season."
"I've heard that Cav is a little bit fat"
Cipollini has always been admired Mark Cavendish's ability to win so much and so well. The two have even trained together in Tuscany. However Cipollini knows that Greipel is hungry for revenge after leaving HTC for Omega Pharma-Lotto.
"Cavendish is a huge talent and is the fastest sprinter in the world but Greipel always starts off the season well, while Cavendish usually needs a bit of time to get going," Cipo points out.
"I haven't seen Mark for a few months but from what I've heard he's a little bit fat, so he might need some racing to be his very best. I think that tips things slightly more in Greipel's favour. But if things go Cav's way and he gets a good lead out from his team, there's no reason why things won’t go his way. It's going to be close and so fascinating to watch."
Cipollini gave Cyclingnews his predictions for the first sprints of the season while at the Katusha training camp in Calpe, Spain.
Katusha team manager Andrei Tchmil has convinced him to work with the Russian team to put some pepper on Filippo Pozzato's tail and coach the team's young Russian sprinters. He is also busy promoting his MCipollini range of bikes and happy to be a sponsor of the new MCipollini-Giordana women's team.
Cipollini is almost as lean as when he raced as professional. He still rides a lot, often testing prototypes bikes, but admitted he prefers to go skiing in the winter. He was supposed to go training with the riders at the Katusha training camp but revealed that his back had blocked up during his flight to Spain.
It seems that even SuperMario isn't super everyday, now that he is close to his 44th birthday.