By Cathy Mehl
Yesterday in Georgia was the opportunity for the press to see the hard men
who will be riding this seven stage race. We will have more
from this press conference, but first we present comments from World Champion
Mario Cipollini, of the Domina Vacanze team.
Mario Cipollini was well received with a big round of applause as he arrived
with his interpreter. Race announcer Jeff Roake described Mario as a great
athlete, a great character and a great talent. His palmares were laid out by
Roake, as well as his antics off the bike, such as arriving at the start line
dressed as Julius Caesar. Roake asked asked him, since he appears to be near
the end of his career, how did he wish to be remembered? Mario stated that he
didnít know how he wished to be remembered, but he wants definitely to be
remembered and he thinks heís done something to be remembered.
Chris Brewer from Lance Armstrong.com said it was widely published that
Cipo has promised to finish the TdF this year; did he really mean it and how
would he achieve that? Mario said his first objective was to participate in the
Tour and now that heís on his second objective, which is to win stages and then
definitely to get to Paris. When asked what brought him to the Tour de Georgia
and what did he hope to accomplish this week, Mario answered that he wanted to
be here just to get away from Europe and to get ready for the Giro. He said
since heíd won many places in the world, and that heíd like to win in the United States
because it would be the first time.
He was then asked if he knew anything about the domestic sprinters he would
be facing in the sprint finishes. He said he didnít know anything about the
domestic riders here but that he hoped to not be beaten by someone with "less
value" than himself (big laugh from crowd, and the interpreter said that maybe his English wasnít so
good!), but he would respect whomever might beat him. He knows a
valuable rider might not be the one with the big name. But he hopes to win stages
here and beat the other riders.
He was then asked why he races American bikes instead of Italian ones. He
said that American companies have spent a lot of money being sure to send out
the best products, but Italian companies are struggling right now because they
haven't invested as much, so thatís why itís worth it to him to ride American
The next comment was concerning who would help him find out about the
competition here in Georgia and he replied that he will find out at the race.
Because of his experience, heíll see who has the better way of pedalling; heís always
done it this way and heíll definitely use this same technique to check people
out in Stage One. Asked if he picked the team to race with him in America, he
said when he decided to come the team was already pretty much done, but he sat
down with the DS and discussed people, and introduced two people he felt he
needed for the finish (he didnít name names).
The race announcer told the crowd
about the importance of the lead out, speaking about Lombardi. Roake spoke of
Cipo's record of four wins at the Giro, and his stated goal of getting to Paris in
July, and asked would he try to save himself for the Tour and go a little easier in the
Giro? He said definitely that the goal is to win in France and he intends to have
the best condition for France, since heís won so many at the Giro. Cipollini
holds the record for the number of Giro stage wins - 42.
He was told that the cycling community in Georgia is very excited that heís
come here, and is looking forward to seeing some outrageous outfits at the start
line. He said of course he was here to win and he hoped to do it in a most
spectacular way since sprinting is, in itself, so spectacular, and he hopes to
bring one of his best sprint wins to the people and have them be excited by
that. In Italy he offers shows during the press conferences, but here he said he is
limited by the language.
He was asked how he was affected by Marco Pantaniís death, and he answered
that he was good friends with Marco and his death has affected him and the
entire cycling community. He felt Marco's death deeply. Now that the tragedy
[mourning] period of Marcoís death has passed, he hopes, and he will be sure, that Marco will
be remembered for what he has been and what he has given to the sport.
Cipo agrees to a photo while riding the elevator...Click for larger image.
Referring to great battles with other sprinters, he was asked if he was
coming to the end of his career and how would he like to leave the cycling
community? He said one thing he is experiencing in this latest period of his
career is freedom; he is free to decide what he wants to do next. Right now
heís very motivated and since this motivation will stay, he plans to keep going
and then some day when thatís gone, heíll just quit. But before then, he
doesnít think about it.
Regarding Lombardi leaving and then rejoining the team, he was asked if he
now had a good connection with Lombardi and was he the guy for his leadouts?
Mario replied that this situation has been overly amplified in the media, and
that he had no problem with Lombardiís decision to leave and lead a team, he
respects that. But now that heís back, he has no problem with Giovanni and is
comfortable and happy to have him back on the team with him.
He was asked if he had studied the climbs heíll have to do in TdG at all. He
said he doesnít know much about the climbs and will just
find out about the climbs day by day. He knows there are tough climbs. He is
very calm and confident and heís here for training to get ready for an important
With his goal of making it to Paris this year, how has he changed his
training, and what makes him think he can make it over the mountains at age 37
when he couldnít make it in previous years? He replied that heíd quit in the
past, not so much because of physical problems, but more from psychological
problems. And heís finished many Giros and heís training a little differently.
He tried to race leaner, but he found he lost power in the sprints so heís
changed his training again so he can win sprints.
Asked about American teammate David Clinger, Mario said he just met him and
rode with him today so he couldnít say much about him, but to ask this question
again in a week.
Asked who will be the NEXT Mario Cipollini when heís gone, who will have the
charisma and be the next sex symbol in cycling? (Huge laugh from the crowd, and
then from Mario when the question was translated). He says replacing someone like
Armstrong is difficult, champions like that are not born every year. It is more
difficult to find a crazy one like Cipollini.
Whatís his first impression of the south, of Georgia? Heís been very happy
about the way heís been welcomed here. Besides the warmth of the people, he
likes the warmth of the weather. In Italy it is raining and cold right now. He
said also he is very impressed that in US cycling there are a lot of women,
which is another positive aspect that he misses in Europe.
That was it for Mario. He was really very lively and charming, despite the
language barrier. I sure was wishing Iíd studied Italian in high school!