This year there were no dancing girls, no camels, no exotic trips to Sharm El
Sheik along the Red Sea in Egypt. Instead, this weekend's Domina Vacanze team
presentation was an elegant, understated affair at the luxurious Villa Norella
along the shores of Lake Como in northern Italy, designed to underscore the
serious business of bicycle racing.
Mario Cipollini and his 24 fellow teammates were officially introduced as the
team is chomping at the bit to kick-start the 2004 racing season. Dressed in a
white turtle-neck and casual slacks, had the Lion King lost some of his
trademark glamour? Not a chance. As always, the 2002 world champion was the
center of attention.
"I have worked hard in the sun of South Africa to prepare for the season,"
said the tan and fit-looking Cipollini. "I love the adrenaline of racing. Last
season was not how I had hoped. I am motivated to make a strong season and show
everyone who the world's best sprinter is."
There's no lack of motivation at Domina Vacanze this season. Cipollini will
enjoy a fortified "train" to catapult him to victory in the sprints while
Michele Scarponi will continue his upward trajectory in the Giro d'Italia and
such classics as Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
"I've been a professional team manager now for nine years, and I know this is
the most important season I've faced," said Domina Vacanze team manager Vincenzo
Santoni. "I have confidence in our 25 riders and I see Cipollini particularly
Specialized bikes played a starring role as well, with Cipollini and Co.
happily posing with their red and white S-Works E5 AEROTEC frames. Mario and the
rest of the team will ride the stock frames while S-Works Tarmac, Roubaix and
other prototypes will be used on a case-by-case basis. The entire team will race
with Specialized helmets and several riders, including Cipollini, will use
The Specialized S-Works E5 Aerotec
Super Mario Relishing Showdown With Petacchi
Cipollini can't hold back his eagerness to face new archrival Alessandro
Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo), who stole the spotlight last season with a record four
or more stage victories in each of cycling's grand tours.
"Even though everybody considers Alessandro Petacchi the best sprinter in the
world just because he had one great season, I can't wait to take him on and show
I'm back," Cipollini said.
The Petacchi-Cipollini duel should be one of the highlights of the 2004
season. While the pair might see each other at early-season races such as
Tirreno-Adriatico, the first serious battle will be Milan-San Remo on March 20.
Cipollini won the "Classicissima" in 2002 and Petacchi has already said it's his
top goal of the spring season.
"I'm still looking forward to a challenge with Petacchi," Cipollini said.
"Last year was a tough year for me, and I really want to show what kind of rider
"The adrenaline of the competition is my life, I feel I live only for this I
don't know when I will retire, I must now think of this season to ransom a 2003
that did not go like I wanted. Certainly that I wanted to make the Olympics, but
technically it seems impossible. I have thought, I have been regenerated, now I
quiver thinking of the first races. I don't know when the first competiton with
Petacchi will be; they tell me it could be the Giro della Provincia di Lucca,
but those that will count indeed will be Giro d'Italia and, first, Milan-Sanremo.
I have worked a lot, I have worked well; it will be a big season," Cipollini
Cipollini, of course, boasts cycling's most potent and experienced train.
There's nothing more spectacular than watching the "zebras" move to the front
and hammer the pace over the final kilometers before catapulting Super Mario to
the finish line.
Cipollini can count on the steady hand of experienced pros Mario Scirea and
Gabriele Colombo. While last year's set-up man Giovanni Lombardi won't be back,
Cipollini is reunited with Gian-Matteo Fagnini. The 33-year-old Fagnini was
Cipo's favorite set-up man during his run in the 1990s before Fagnini joined
German ace sprinter Erik Zabel at Telekom.
"I'm happy to be back here," Fagnini said. "It should be a good challenge."
Il Re Leone's first race will be the GP degli Etruschi this Sunday, February
The Cipollini-Petacchi duel will be even more heated during the Giro d'Italia
(May 8-30), when the two Italian powerhouses face off for the maglia rosa and
"I see a great battle between the train of Fassa Bortolo and my train. It's a
challenge that absolutely inspires me and it's a challenge that I absolutely
want to win," Cipollini said.
Cipollini Wants the Tour
Cipollini is hopeful the Tour de France will grant him an appearance after
the disappointment of being overlooked last year while he was wearing the world
champion's rainbow jersey.
"I'm convinced I can still win stages in the Tour de France, and I think I
deserve a place in this year's race as a kind of lifetime achievement award,"
Cipollini said. "I don't know how much chance we've got, but Domina Vacanze boss
Ernesto Preatoni and I are going to do everything we can to convince the Tour de
France director Jean Marie Leblanc to give us a place."
Regardless of the Tour, there's good news for Domina Vacanze as the team has
received one of 18 invitations to participate in all 10 rounds of this year's
World Cup events. Guaranteed invitation clears the way for Cipollini at Milan -
San Remo and Michele Scarponi at Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
The other 17 teams to be pre-selected include: Ag2r-Prévoyance, Alessio-Bianchi,
Cofidis, Team CSC, Euskaltel-Euskadi, Fassa Bortolo, FDJeux.com, Gerolsteiner,
Illes Balears-Banesto, Lampre, Liberty Seguros, Phonak, Quick.Step-Davitamon,
Rabobank, Saeco, T-Mobile and the U.S. Postal Service.
Thanks to Specialized and Domina Vacanze-Elitron - Specialized is a
company founded by riders for riders. Stay with Specialized.com through the
season for frequent updates, exclusive photos, interviews, and...you
know...other cool stuff!
The 2004 Domina Vacanze - Elitron Team
Mario Cipollini (Italy)
Valerio Agnoli (Italy)
Massimo Giunti (Italy)
Andrus Aug (Estonia)
Massimo Iannetti (Italy)
Alexander Bajenov (Russia)
Tim Jones (Zimbabwe)
Lorenzo Cardellini (Italy)
Alexander Kolobnev (Russia)
David Clinger (USA)
Sergio Marinangeli (Italy)
Gabriele Colombo (Italy)
Massimiliano Mori (Italy)
Martin Derganc (Slovenia)
Andris Naudusz (Latvia)
Gian Matteo Fagnini (Italy)
Michele Scarponi (Italy)
Francesco Failli (Italy)
Mario Scirea (Italy)
Antonio Murillo Fisher (Brazil)
Francesco Secchiari (Italy)
Alessio Galletti (Italy)
Filippo Simeoni (Italy)
Massimiliano Gentili (Italy)
Paolo Valoti (Italy)
Courtesy Domina Vacanze-Elitron.