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Cipollini’s Darkest Day

– Reported by Gazzetta dello Sport –

The king has abdicated his throne after the darkest day of his career. Mario Cipollini was beaten for the third time by Alessandro Petacchi without hardly turning a pedal in protest, being overtaken by Galvez, Svorada, Velo, and Garzelli. It was a tired champion that after the finish said: “Have a little bit of respect. Don’t come looking for me, because I’m not going to say anything to you”. A champion without a smile who after ten minutes emerged from his camper and told reporters that: “Maybe I’m old, it’s the right time to stop and let the younger riders take over”. The clouded sky, threatening rain, made the mood even more somber.

The only festivities were at the anti-Cipollini camp. Alessandro Petacchi is the new prince of the sprints. At the Giro he’s already won three of the four field sprints contested, capping a fabled week in which he’s worn the pink jersey for 6 days. He will be in pink tommorow as well during the 7th stage to Terminillo, a mountain stage that will be the battle ground for the GC men. Petacchi is resigned to the fact the he’ll lose his lead on the climbs, which is only logical. It will close the first week of the Giro that couldn’t have gone any better for him. “At Catania I won in the pink jersey, today I won with pink shorts”, joked the rider from Fassa Bortolo, leader since the opening stage in Lecce. “What can I say? That I’ve experienced a miracle and I’m ready to lose the jersey and put myself into service for Frigo and Gonzalez. Today I took a risk and I had reason to: the only way to beat Cipollini is to anticipate him. That’s what Galvez and I did and Mario knew that he couldn’t respond”.

The street descended, the zebra train of Domina-Elitron, with five riders, had brought the Lion King to the ideal sprint. But the World Champion from Zolder couldn’t take advantage of the work from his leadout man Lombardi even though Petacchi did. “The biggest disappointment, in this moment, is that I haven’t been able to finish the work done by my team. I’ve been in these situations before and I’ve always gotten results. There have been 15 years and I’ve always won. But there comes a moment in which life doesn’t offer you what you want any longer and you have to accept that”, concluded Cipollini. The third failure has gutted the great champion. The season which brought Mario San Remo and the World Championship seems already to be a long, long time ago. Also Binda’s record seems to be unattainable yet again. Cipollini’s priority now is to find himself again between here and Milan. Petacchi, his successor, is the first to give him credit: “Mario isn’t finished, he’ll return before the end of the Giro and beat Binda’s record”.

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