Special Edition Cycling News for February 6, 2004
Edited by Jeff Jones
2004 Domina Vacanze Team Presentation
Cipo chuffed to challenge; talent galore for Santoni's squad
By Tim Maloney, European Editor
On a clear late winter day above the sparkling waters of Lake Como, with the enchanting village of Bellagio in the background, Domina Vacanze owner Ernesto Preatoni invited the media and sponsors to his elegant Villa Norena for the presentation of the Domina Vacanze team for 2004. Despite DV's recent setback of not being able to register in Division I, Mario Cipollini's squad looks like a top team for 2004.
Cipo himself seems ready for a big season this year. Looking fitter and more focused than he has since his World Championship year in 2002, mega Mario, who will turn 38 two days after this year's Milano-San Remo, still believes he has a lot to contribute to the sport of cycling. Although Cipo has renounced his ambitions to ride in the 2004 Olympic individual pursuit due to the "complicated" qualification procedures, Mario still feels he can compete at the top level.
"I still love the adrenaline of racing. Last season didn't go how I had hoped, so I'm very motivated to have a strong season this year and show everyone who the world's best sprinter is," said the never modest Cipo.
Mega Mario threw down the gauntlet to his big rival, his Tuscan neighbour Alessandro Petacchi, saying, "Even though everybody considers Alessandro Petacchi the best sprinter in the world just because he had one great season, I can't wait to take him on and show I'm back. I'm looking forward to a challenge with Petacchi."
With his former leadout man Gian-Matteo Fagnini coming back on board the Cipo Train with Mario Scirea, Lele Colombo and newcomers Andrus Aug and American David Clinger, Cipo will be ready to rock in the rush to the line. "I'm happy to be back with Mario," Fagnini said. "It should be a good challenge this season."
Although Athens is out for Cipo, the Lion King is hoping for a wild card berth in the 2004 Tour De France. "I'm convinced I can still win stages in the Tour de France," said an optimistic Cipo, "and I think I deserve a place in this year's race as a kind of lifetime achievement award. I don't know how much chance we've got, but Domina Vacanze boss Ernesto Preatoni and I are going to do everything we can to convince the Tour de France director Jean Marie Leblanc to give us a place."
Tour or not, Domina Vacanze garnered enough points last season as Division 1 to gain one of 18 World Cup selections in 2004. So Cipollini will be at Milan - San Remo this year while Michele Scarponi will have a chance to shine at Amstel Gold and Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
Other riders to watch besides Cipo and diminutive climber Scarponi on Domina Vacanze in 2004 will be 23 year old emerging Russian talent Alexandr Kolobnev, American David Clinger, two solid 30 year old Italian riders in Massimiliano Mori (ex-Formaggio) and Massimo Giunti. Domina Vacanze has five neo-pros for 2004, including climber Massimo Ianetti, who animated the U23 World's last year in Canada.
Domina Vacanze team manager Vincenzo Santoni told Cyclingnews that, "I've been a professional cycling team manager for nine years, and I know this is the most important season we've faced, but I have confidence in our 25 riders and I see a Cipollini that's very motivated this year."
Specialized is back as team sponsor, with Specialized bicycles and helmets as team equipment while several riders, including Cipollini, will use Specialized footwear in 2004.
Images by Fotoreporter Sirotti
(All rights reserved/Copyright Knapp Communications Pty Limited 2004)