An Italian bicycle racer. Known as "Cipo" or "The Lion King", he is a sprint specialist. Basically, the whole team works like heck to keep Mario in a good position for 250 km, and then Mario takes over for the last 100 meters or so.

Cipollini is one of the most successful racers still racing, with over 150 career victories. Although widely regarded as wimpy because he tends to quit stage races when they enter hilly areas, no one can deny the fact that he has the record for career stage wins in the Giro d'Italia (currently 30 wins).

Some people consider him a pretty boy, and he is rumored to carry hair gel during races to fix his hair before sprinting to victory. He has also been featured in a number of print ads for the bike shoe manufacturer Northwave, in which he usually accompanies a scantily, or totally un-, clad woman. As in, "Hey, that bat-girl outfit is painted on. You can see her nipples."

He's good to his sponsors, as he does a good job promoting himself and the sponsors. In 1998, I believe, an American bicycle manufacturer (Cannondale) sponsored a European racing team (Cipollini's Saeco team)for the first time. Cipo won a stage of the Tour de France, and with many TV cameras pointing at him, he says, "Cannondale, the best bike, eh?". Pure marketing perfection.

He is beginning to get on in years, as he first went pro in 1989. Through most of his career, he averaged ~15 wins per year, but has had problems maintaining his average the last two years. Though this may be do to his age, it is also do the the loss of his lead-out man, Gian Matteo Fagnini, to the Deutsche Telekom team. It is no coincidence that Telekom's sprinter, Erik Zabel, has for the last two years been expriencing the best results of his career.

update 4/2002

Cipo now rides for the team Acqua e Sapone, which I think is an Italian soap company. After causing some scandal during the team introduction (in which they re-enacted the orgy scene from Eyes Wide Shut...), Cipo has given the other teams that didn't try to hire him something to regret, with his wins at Milan-San Remo and Gent-Wevelgem early in 2002.

The win at Milan-San Remo is very significant, as Cipo has been trying to win this race, the "Queen of the Classics'", throughout his career. Ironic that he was able to finally win it so late in his career. Perhaps he is finally gaining the endurance required to win these Classics?

update 10/2002

Mario's certainly had a topsy-turvy year. After winning his usual 6 stages at the Giro d'Italia, he suddenly retired, partly due to contractual problems, partly due to the snub of not getting a team invite to the Tour deFrance. But he kept training anyways, and un-retired, promptly winning 3 stages at the Vuelta a España. Then he capped off the year by winning the World Championship at Zolder, Belgium. On his website, he says he'll keep riding, though you couldn't fault him if he were to go out as the Champ...

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