Mario Cipollini: Sprinter, Joker, Playboy
Mario Cipollini, in my eyes at least, was the greatest sprinter to ever grace the professional peloton. Not only did he regularly kick the shit out of his contemporaries from the front at 300 meters out, he was a flamboyant joker that loved to perform for his publicity hungry sponsors. I'd hesitate to say the "Lion King" had an ego as opposed to a supreme confidence. He was always charming, often complimentary of his rivals, and sometimes, outright humble.
Cipollini beat Alfredo Binda's record for Giro d'Italia wins in 2003 with an incredible 42 wins to his name. Although "Super Mario" (another nickname) had a reputation as a womanizer and partier, he obviously was a focused racer that had the utmost devotion to the sport considering his consistent dominance. "Mario the Magnificent" (yet another nickname) ended his career in 2005 with an uber-impressive 191 victories.
Photo credit: Graham Watson