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It’s the world or bust for Mapei

Italian cycling team Mapei-Quickstep launched its campaign for the 2002 season Friday with a vow to dominate the world - but also hinted its days in the doping-tainted sport might be numbered. Officially the message coming out of the Mapei team was one of world domination - the desire to regain their world number one spot, success in the two major races they have never won, a vow to compete on all five continents. But team president Giorgio Squinzi then went off-message, admitting his involvement in the scandal-hit sport might be numbered. Squinzi did not hide behind a poor 2001 season,

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By VeloNews Interactive Wire Services, Copyright AFP 2002

Italian cycling team Mapei-Quickstep launched its campaign for the 2002 season Friday with a vow to dominate the world – but also hinted its days in the doping-tainted sport might be numbered.

Officially the message coming out of the Mapei team was one of world domination – the desire to regain their world number one spot, success in the two major races they have never won, a vow to compete on all five continents. But team president Giorgio Squinzi then went off-message, admitting his involvement in the scandal-hit sport might be numbered.

Squinzi did not hide behind a poor 2001 season, saying: “Last year was a less than brilliant one for Mapei.”

Injuries to Spanish rider Oscar Freire and Belgian Tom Steels and an acrimonious parting of the ways with Michele Bartoli contributed to Mapei losing their world number one spot to Fassa Bortolo.

Squinzi, pointing out that the team was celebrating its 10th anniversary in cycling, said: “We have won a lot in that time, we have won virtually everything except the Tour de France and the Milan-San Remo classic.”

And the team insisted it was determined to win those two races although team manager Alvaro Crespi admitted the Tour was a long shot.

“I think the Tour for 2002 might still elude us,” said Crespi who also announced that for the first time Mapei would compete on five continents.

But Squinzi, a self-styled anti-doping crusader, pooped the party by admitting he was beginning to question his future in the sport for the company, which manufactures paint and tiles.

Squinzi said: “We have not fixed a date, for the moment we continue. The situation is complicated in cycling and there are threats to our sport. For the moment I am still enjoying it. But (closing the team) that’s possible if the day comes – I am a fan but also a businessman and if I can’t justify the expenditure if there is no return on the investment. But for now it is a viable concern.”

Freire, who nonetheless won the road-race world championship for Spain, insisted he was over his chronic back problems, saying: “I am not 100 percent yet but so far, so good.”

Copyright AFP 2002