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Euro (Egypt) file – Cipollini never does anything half-bore

SHARM EL SHEIHK, Egypt -- Mario Cipollini never does anything half-bore. So it was no surprise when his new team - Domina Vacanze - decided to unveil its new sponsorship deal with the world champion, it would be done with typical Italian style and flash. Cipollini and the boys enjoyed a weekend in the warm Egyptian sun, pressing the flesh so to speak with the locals and sponsors and going on two light training rides in the Sinai Peninsula. VeloNews' European correspondent Andrew Hood sat down with a handful of other English-speaking journalists for an audience with the Lion King on

By Andrew Hood

Euro (Egypt) file - Cipollini never does anything half-bore

Euro (Egypt) file – Cipollini never does anything half-bore

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SHARM EL SHEIHK, Egypt — Mario Cipollini never does anything half-bore. So it was no surprise when his new team – Domina Vacanze – decided to unveil its new sponsorship deal with the world champion, it would be done with typical Italian style and flash.

Cipollini and the boys enjoyed a weekend in the warm Egyptian sun, pressing the flesh so to speak with the locals and sponsors and going on two light training rides in the Sinai Peninsula.

A view for a (Lion) King on Egypt's Red Sea.

A view for a (Lion) King on Egypt’s Red Sea.

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VeloNews’ European correspondent Andrew Hood sat down with a handful of other English-speaking journalists for an audience with the Lion King on Sunday. Here are some of the highlights on the interview and a press conference:

>> On wearing the rainbow jersey:
“For me being the world champion is a big thing. I have tremendous respect for the jersey. It’s definitely an important year. Every race will be extremely important. There will be no boring or dull moments. Every time you start a race in the rainbow jersey, something special happens.”

>> On his goals for the 2003 season:
“Milan-San Remo will be my first major objective of the season. I will start racing at Luis Puig (Feb. 23 in Spain) and race at Tirreno-Adriatico (March 13-19 in Italy) to prepare. I want to be first on the Via Roma, shining in the ‘maglia iridata’ and win again. It would be like winning another world title. Then I will race Flanders and then prepare for the Giro, where I hope to break Binda’s record (of 41 stage-wins, Cipollini has 40). Then Tour, well, I hope that won’t be a problem.”

>> On the Tour 2003:
“I talked with (Tour race director Jean-Marie) Leblanc over the winter. He told me this is a new team and he told me he wants to wait to see how the team performs. I don’t know what will happen, but I want to race in the Tour this year wearing the rainbow jersey. Whatever has happened in the past is over for me. I only think about today and tomorrow.”

Cipo getting down during the team presentation in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt

Cipo getting down during the team presentation in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt

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>> On the 2003 worlds:
“I may not even race in Canada. The course is not good for me at all. It’s better suited for Bettini and to have the team built around him or some other riders. If Ballerini insists I go, I will consider it, but now it’s not in my plans.”

>> On Armstrong:
“Everything about him is American. His team, his attitude, the way he races. The way he was born into cycling is very different than an Italian racer or another European. He’s a racer who is very dedicated, always a professional. I have great respect for him. You ask me if he will win the fifth Tour? I believe he will win the fifth and the sixth Tour. By overcoming his illness has helped him a lot to become a champion. He has a big impact on the media. My only wish is that he would use that influence to help cycling more. … I don’t have any problem with Armstrong at all. I respect him and he respects me.”

>> On aborted efforts to join up Marco Pantani as teammates:
“You have to talk with management to see about that. I had nothing to do with trying to make the deal work. Marco is a great figure in Italian cycling and everyone is hoping he can come back to the top.”

>> On the state of Italian cycling:
“Cycling in Italy is now in a delicate moment. We had a hard time finding a sponsor for this team. There are many others in crisis, but I think the sport has hit the bottom and I think we’re on the way back up. I would only hope that this year we can talk about good racing and results more than anything else.”

>> On his place in Italian cycling:
“I don’t think about that very much. Cycling is like politics and so many other things in life. When you’re gone, someone else will come along, perhaps even better. I don’t consider myself that important. I’m trying to leave my mark in cycling, but when I’m gone, I’m gone for good.”

>> On whom he sees as his heir:
“Only the road will tell who will be the next Cipollini. I can only take responsibility for myself. The age of becoming a champion is getting older. A rider needs to learn more and mature. The days of Saronni or Fignon winning the Giro or Tour at 22-23 years old are gone. You need a different type of development now because there are so many strong riders. I think the medium-to high-level of racing has changed a lot. To improve, you need to have a lot of talent and a lot of determination, and that takes years to achieve.”

>> On whether he’s is stereotyped:
“I just follow my own path. I have my own ideas on how to do things. You have to remain balanced and true to yourself. … It may be easy for journalists to call me a playboy. That’s free for them to write. I used to get upset about things written about me. Now, I realize I cannot control that and what’s important is what people think that are important to me.”

>> On retirement:
“Now I am taking it year-to-year. I have great respect for the rainbow jersey and want to focus everything on making this year count. I don’t know if I have two or three years left in me. I want to enjoy this year to the maximum.… I haven’t set my sights on time limits or when I’m going to retire or ease off. I’m going to do this as long as I like it.”

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