Could Mario Cipollini?s comeback be over before it even began?

On Friday morning the Italian Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper claimed that Cipollini would come out of retirement and ride the Tour of California for the US Rock Racing team before becoming manager of a Monaco-based part of the team.

However by the end of the day it seems that Cipollini and charismatic Rock Racing owner Micheal Ball had already fallen out, contracts may never be signed and Cipollini might have to put his bike back in the garage.

The Rock Racing team has already cancelled a press conference planned for Monday January 21 and Cipollini has apparently decided to return to Italy on Sunday rather than stay, as planned, until the end of the month.

Cipollini first admitted there were problems with the new team on Italian radio.

?It?s going to be a difficult birth, let?s see what happens,? Cipollini said via phone from Santa Monica.

?We?re discussing things and sifting through things but compared to two days ago things have become more difficult. Something has happened. We?ll see if we manage to save the baby but it?s going to be a difficult birth.?

In Saturday’s edition of Gazzetta dello Sport, Cipollini pointed the finger at the current managment of the Rock Racing team.

“You’ve no ideas of what’s going on. The whole project, the programme and the structure was all agreed with Michael Ball. Now there are problems and things have changed, his people are trying to change things. I’m better off going out on my bike to cool down before I go an meet Ball… I’ve asked for a face to face meeting to get to the bottom of things. We either stick to the contract or I’m going to go home,” Cipo told Gazzetta.

“I’ve been here since Monday and we’ve held one meeting after another. Ball isn’t the problem, my money isn’t the problem and neither are my image rights and the team budget (apparently ten million Euro per year). The problem is the people around Ball and who are worried about losing their power because of the European team I’d manage.”

When I came here in October I told them a lot about cycling…We created the project together. I asked for direct contact with Ball and he gave me carte blanche. I made it very clear about Sevilla, Botero and Hamilton, that they had already signed. I told Ball that it definitely wasn’t the right way to do things and that those riders shouldn’t race in Europe. He said I was right and said they would only ride in the USA. But now his guys have come up with new request such as: Cipollini has to be the manager in the USA as well as Europe, he has to move to the USA for some time. Now I can’t understand what is going on…”

Cipollini makes it clear he wants to be involved in the team but that everybody needs to work together if the idea of having both a US and a European team is going to work.

“Isn’t it better to ride together in a Bentley, than alone in a (Fiat) Ritmo…?” Cipollini beofre going for a ride along the California coast.

More later