By Andrew Hood
The post-world’s party for Mario Cipollini will continue through at least next season. Cipollini says he wants to race next year so he can return to his favorite spring classic as world champion.
“I want to go back to win Milan-San Remo next year wearing the rainbow jersey,” Cipollini told the Italian press.
The 35-year-old roared into the world title Sunday and will race Saturday in the World Cup closing race at Giro di Lombardia in what could be his last race with Acqua & Sapone.
“I will race Lombardia out of respect to the World Cup and the rainbow jersey and to help (Paolo) Bettini win the World Cup after he worked so hard to help me,” he said.
Cipollini is reportedly talking about joining up with Marco Pantani on the Mercatone Uno-RDZ team for the 2003 season. What’s sure is that Cipollini will be earning a big salary. The Lion King says he hopes his victory will be a boost for cycling back home.
“I hope this helps Italian cycling, which is currently in a crisis. Many riders are not with contracts and the sport has been hurt with so many scandals. Cycling needs some good news as well and I hope my victory will help. When a rider with the qualities of Fabio Scinto is still without a contract, there are grave problems,” he told Corriere della Sera.
Freire to English school
Two-time world champion Oscar Freire flew back to Spain on Monday without a world championship medal. Freire lost hope of the podium when a pedal ripped out two spokes from the Spaniards front tire, forcing him to stop and change wheels.
According to the Spanish daily AS, it appeared Cipollini was the accidental culprit who took out Freire’s spokes. Freire will go to the Giro di Lombardia this weekend, where he said he will sign a two-year deal with Rabobank.
“I was talking with Banesto, but they could only offer a one-year deal and I went with Rabobank because they were offering two years. I like Rabobank’s program because they focus on the World Cup and the grand tours,” Freire said.
Rabobank officials have asked Freire to learn some English over the winter so he can communicate with his Dutch and American teammates.
“No one there speaks Italian or Spanish, so I will take some classes this winter to learn some English,” Freire said.
Casagrande to Lampre
The French daily L’Equipe reported that Francesco Casagrande has signed a two-year deal with Lampre. Casagrande, second overall at the 2000 Giro d’Italia and winner of the 2000 Fleche-Wallone and the 1998-99 Clasica San Sebastian, rode with Fassa Bortolo this year but was kicked out of the 2002 Giro for barging a Colombian rider into the barriers midway through the race. Lampre has also signed Filippo Pozzato and Fabian Cancellara, ninth in the world time trial championships.
Gonzalez takes Banesto off the list
The contract merry-go-round for Vuelta a España victor Aitor Gonzalez continues. The Spanish rider said he won’t be racing with Banesto for the upcoming season because of doubts he has over the future of the team.
“I would have liked to have already signed with Banesto, but the bank isn’t going to be continuing with its sponsorship,” Gonzalez told the Spanish wires. “It looks like I will be going to a foreign team.”