Tuesday, March 18, 2008

whither the lion king?

mario tinked off; set to knock ball out of sanremo park?
aging birthday boy wants new kit as gift

By Gregor Brown, thanks to cyclingnews.com
Italian Mario Cipollini has requested to end his contract with Team Rock Racing and may be racing in Tinkoff colours for this Saturday's Milano-Sanremo, a race he won in 2002. 'The Lion King' and owner of the USA Continental team, Michael Ball, have had their differences since starting their relationship last fall, and now Cipollini is in a race to annul his contract.
The 2002 World Champion from Lucca has a renewed desire for racing the Milano-Sanremo since he returned from retirement in the Tour of California. He now faces a race against time if he is to participate in the 298-kilometre race known as La Classicissima as he needs his racing license resolved with Rock Racing, which he requested last week according to La Gazzetta dello Sport, before signing for a new team.
Cipollini, who will celebrate his 41st birthday this Saturday, faced a similar race against time before being allowed into the Tour of California. In the tour along USA's west coast he proved his legs can still pump out the high revolutions by finishing third in the stage to Sacramento (won by Tom Boonen). However, his chances of winning in Sanremo, his last race in 2005 before retirement, would be limited due to lack of racing kilometres.
His contact with the Italian Professional Continental team owned by Russian Oleg Tinkov has yet to be confirmed. The 40 year-old Russian confirmed to Cyclingnews he has not talked to Cipollini, but he noted that the team's general manager, Stefano Feltrin, may have. Feltrin was unavailable for comment.
"Ten minutes before the sign-on the director talked to us about this article in the newspaper. I don't know if it is official or not," said the team's star rider, Mikhail Ignatiev, to Cyclingnews before the final stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico. "Cipollini is a great racer, but I have never had the chance to race with him. I have seen him about ten times in training, we have crossed paths along the seaside in Tuscany. I don't go training with him as I am usually training alone." The 22 year-old Russian will not be taking part in Sanremo as he is building for the Track World Championships.

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