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A conversation with Mario Scirea

Mario Scirea is one of cycling’s hardest-working pros. The 37-year-old veteran has only won two races in his career that started in 1989, but for a rider like Scirea, it’s not his victories that he’s paid to earn. Scirea is the man that drives Mario Cipollini’s train to the finish line in cycling’s fast and furious sprinting stages. Last year, with Scirea’s uncompromising help, Cipollini enjoyed his best season ever. Next week, Scirea will line up for the start of the Giro d’Italia and will have the pressure on his shoulders as Cipollini eyes breaking the stage-win record set by Alfredo

Cipo’s friend and teammate readies for Giro ’03

By Andrew Hood

Mario Scirea is one of cycling’s hardest-working pros. The 37-year-old veteran has only won two races in his career that started in 1989, but for a rider like Scirea, it’s not his victories that he’s paid to earn. Scirea is the man that drives Mario Cipollini’s train to the finish line in cycling’s fast and furious sprinting stages. Last year, with Scirea’s uncompromising help, Cipollini enjoyed his best season ever.

Next week, Scirea will line up for the start of the Giro d’Italia and will have the pressure on his shoulders as Cipollini eyes breaking the stage-win record set by Alfredo Binda.

Andrew Hood caught up with Scirea at the beginning of the season during Domina Vacanze’s team presentation down in Egypt. Here are some excerpts from the interview:

VeloNews: You’ve known Cipollini a long time, are you friends as well?

Mario Scirea: Yes, we are friends beyond cycling. We met as young riders back in 1986 and we’ve been friends ever since.

VN: Is there more to Cipollini than his playboy image?

MS: Cipollini is sincere. What he says is true. There’s no falsehood with Cipollini. Cycling today is a lot less professional than it used to be. Now everyone is out for themselves, so if something is not how it should be, Cipollini will tell you. Even if you won’t like it, he’ll still tell you.

VN: What makes Cipo unique to cycling?

MS: I like to think he’s the smartest person in the decisive moment of the race. He’s very intelligent and he can read the race perfectly, better than anyone I’ve raced with. There are a lot who are strong, but why does one only win? Why does Cipollini consistently win? Because he’s smart as well as strong. He’s bigger than cycling. He’s a big showman. He can do anything well.

VN: What’s there not to like about racing?

MS: The force we expend on the mind, the body, everything is always at the absolute maximum. All we do is eat, sleep and race. You’ve forgotten the day as soon as it’s over. I can barely remember the days when I was racing when I younger.

VN: What advice would you have for a young rider trying to become a pro today?

MS: Work hard and be disciplined because the level of economic rewards is not what it was a few years ago, so you must be very dedicated to succeed. You must also look to take your chances when you can to show yourself.

VN: Will you retire when Cipo retires?

MS: No, I think he will retire when I do! … No, I think Cipollini will still be racing long after I am finished.

VN: Which race would you like to win?

MS: Flanders.

VN: What was your best moment of your career?

MS: There are two in my professional life. First, when I rode four years with Gianno Bugno. He was a true champion. And this past season with Cipollini. There were so many beautiful moments.

VN: How do you want to be remembered?

MS: As a team member, someone who sacrificed for others. It’s an example. Why, because it’s the highest sacrifice you can make as a professional, to help others win.

VN: Have you ever wanted more with your career?

MS: I am content with my role on the team. I live with what I know my limitations are. I know what I am good at and it gives me satisfaction to be the best.

VN: What do you enjoy in your free time?

MS: Speed. I like my Triumph motorcycle.

VN: What’s the secret to your longevity?

MS: I’m still young (laughs). I still want to do it. I still have the passion, just like I was when I was a neo-pro. I don’t want to slow up because when I give up, that means I will be old. I don’t want to let go. I still do my job better than anyone else.

VN: How are the younger pros compared to the days when you started?

MS: The younger guys don’t want to suffer. They don’t want to work. They want to be stars right away and there’s no sense of paying your dues. Cycling has become less professional because of these attitudes. They get spoiled and the youngsters aren’t prepared to sacrifice for someone else. They want to be the stars.