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Cipollini: I wouldn't say I'm a great champion ...
By Fabio
Date: 4/11/2002
Cipollini: I wouldn't say I'm a great champion ...

Post-Race interview with Mario Cipollini: Despite all-out efforts to teach them other languages, Flemish and English for instance, seems that so far the Spring Classics and Semi-Classics are able to speak in one tongue only: Italian. And with a strong Tuscan accent. At MSR they spoke with Cipo's Lucca intonation, at RVV with Tafi's almost-Florentine tone, and at GW back with Cipo's phonetics. But that very pleasant (that's my personal taste at least) Tuscan accent was heard also during the interview the Gand-Wevelgem dominator gave to Italy's #1 sport newspaper, the famous "Gazzetta dello Sport".

Most people should be used to see the "Lion King" win, and he also was the #1 favorite of the race, perhaps along with Zabel and McEwen, but what happened on Wednesday afternoon was absolutely out of the ordinary (or simply "outrageous" as labelled it); Super Mario did not sit on his his teammates wheels and simply wait for his red (or zebrato, or any other colour) train guys to do their usual leadout work before he smashed opposition. This time he chose to amaze everyone: with some 30 km. to go he launched a solo attack (!!!) to bridge the gap to the 4 escapers of that moment, then didn't let any of his breakway companions go clear, and in the end easily outsprinted them all in his (often) usual, regal way.

"Well. I'd say I acted in a completely different way from the ones I was used to. Probably the win at Milan-San Remo changed me, and made me more confident in my chances. That's a feeling you may get after you win big races. So today, when I realized I was losing my chances, decided to take some risks. Sometimes taking risks is a good thing and may give good results. Of course only when you are in a very good condition, if you are not you can't have such performances" the "new Andrea Tafi" said.

But bridging up to the Belgian, the Slovene and the all-American duo was just half of the work: "After catching them I had to chase down them, as last thing they wished was to get to a final sprint with me. I got it and, well, it has been an extremely important day to me. I'm truly happy now".

On a pre-race interview, Cipo had labelled Gand-Wevelgem as a "World Championship for sprinters". But later, asked if he really feels he's the #1 sprinter at all, the "Gold Medallist" sounded quite modest: "I don't think I'm the Number 1 Sprinter. True that GW is very important to sprinters, but today I didn't win in the pure sprinter's way. I did something only great champions do. I'm not saying I'm a great Champion now, not at all, but usually those things are usually done by great Champions".

It's time to think about the future now, and this year "future" mainly means one thing to Cipo: the World Championships in Zolder. In a recent "news Roundup" (see link below) I wrote of the man's reactions after he and Tafi tested (under the glance of Italy's national coach Franco "Monsieur Roubaix" Ballerini) the Worlds route in the Belgian town. But now the topic of discussion also is "how can he keep this winning form until the October race ?". "Few doubts that it won't be an easy task at all" the would-be Rainbow Jersey wearer replied ( and let me say that a further reason to be happy to see him in rainbow colors is that it would save us - for an year at least - from seeing him that ultra-kitsch "zebrato" jersey ... my own taste again, of course) also admitting that "I'll definitely have to race several times during the season, and recover afterwards. I hope we'll be able to handle the situation and, when in Zolder, be as competitive as I'm in this period".

Best wishes, Mario, and start giving some Italian lessons to the World Championships too ... with Tuscan accent of course !

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