I long looked at the news that fast man/playboy/Dancing With the Stars champion Mario "Lion King" Cipollini was staging a comeback in the American racing circuit as marketing fluff and the big dreams of small time director sportifs. That is no longer the case.
I feel a mixture of grim hope and pity. Rock Racing isn't what most in the industry would call a "class act" given the way team manager/owner Michael Ball has been swinging his nuts all over the place in both words and actions.
Mario Cipollini will return to the peloton this season after a three-year absence. The 40 year-old sprinter has reached an agreement with Rock Racing, managed by fashion label Rock & Republic owner Michael Ball, to become one of the squad's riders, but also a manager.
La Gazzetta dello Sport reported that "Super Mario" is currently in Santa Monica, California, for technical and administrative meetings. An agreement that he would join the team was reached Wednesday night after a five hour meeting with Ball, and the contract may be signed as early as Friday. The 2002 World champion may make his come-back next month in the Tour of California.
While the Italian has always been known for liking spectacular appearances, he may also have financial motives for the new job. Earlier this week the tax magistrate of the Province of Lucca announced that Cipollini must pay some 1.1 million Euro back in taxes, sanctions and interest.