Cipollini/Rock Racing split confirmed

Mario Cipllini (Rock Racing) signs autographs

Mario Cipllini (Rock Racing) signs autographs (Image credit: Jon Devich)

The spilt between famed cyclist Mario Cipollini and America's Rock Racing has been confirmed by both parties. Cipollini also quashed speculation that he was in discussions with Tinkoff Credit Systems to rider this weekend's Milan-Sanremo, saying that such a move wouldn't be beneficial to his goal of becoming a team director.

While little meaningful reason was given for the split, both parties claimed to be behind the decision to part ways. Cipollini said the parting has occurred due to reasons beyond his control.

"Unfortunately I've had to end my relationship with the American Rock Racing team that started a few months ago," Cipollini said in a statement. "The idea of riding Milan-San Remo made sense if it was linked to a wider project of building and managing a new team and my return to racing was part of the project to create a dream team. Despite a contract, this hasn't happened for reasons out of my control."

The Italian sprinter returned to competitive racing after brokering a deal to compete at the Tour of California in February. Much hype was made over the signing of Cipollini, which was supposed to lead the Italian to a management roll with a European-based arm of Rock Racing in 2009.

"From a business perspective and from an overall team standpoint, the relationship between Mario Cipollini and Rock Racing was not advantageous, and would not work long-term," said a brief statement from Rock Racing owner Michael Ball. "We have terminated his contract and wish him luck in future endeavors."

An unlikely cycling squad operator, Ball has been no stranger to the media spotlight. The clothing label owner made headlines when he reacted to comments from Steve Hed of HED Cycling, saying he would go out and build a better wheel than the US manufacturer of high-end wheelsets and other aerodynamic products.

"Ya know what, challenge me! Please, challenge me to go out and just in spite of you bailing, I'll make a better wheel, a cooler wheel, a more dynamic wheel, a lighter and faster wheel - thanks very much for inspiring me!" he said. "I'll send [Steve Hed] a thank you note!"

Former world champion Cipollini, who won 189 races during his career, has meanwhile quashed speculation he would race this weekend's Milan-Sanremo with another squad.

"I deny the rumours circulating that I might ride Milan-San Remo with another team because as I said, riding Milan-San Remo would have made sense if it was linked to a wider plan of management in the future," he explained.

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