As Cycling Weekly reported ten days ago, Mario Cipollini has decided to come out of retirement and will race again in 2008.
The 2002 world champion and playboy sprinter will ride for the controversial US Rock Racing team, sponsored by the trendy clothing company Rock & Republic. According to a report in the Italian Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper, Cipollini will ride for the team in 2008 and also manage part of the team with a European base in Monaco. The team?s budget is reported to be close to six million pounds, with the objective of becoming the best team in the peloton within five years.
The Rock Racing team includes several USA riders but team owner Michael Ball has also signed contracts with Tyler Hamilton and Oscar Sevilla. Both were implicated in Operacion Puerto and Hamilton returned from a two-year ban for blood doping in 2007 but this does not seem to bother Ball or Cipollini. According to Gazzetta dello Sport, Cipollini wants to sign Ivan Basso when his ban ends on October 24.
Cipollini agreed terms for his comeback in California on Thursday after several days of negotiations and is currently training in Santa Monica.
On Thursday, the Rock Racing team was given a place in the Tour of California but it is not clear if Cipollini will race at an international level or opt just to ride criterium in the USA. If Cipollini does ride the Tour of California he will take on Tom Boonen, Paolo Bettini and Mark Cavendish in the sprints.
Cipollini will be 41 on March 22 and seriously injured his knee in a skiing accident but has been seen training hard in Tuscany in recent weeks and made Michele Bartoli and Ivan Basso suffer during a five hour ride during the New Year holidays.