The size of the crowd was amazing and caught me off guard, Cipollini said. It was great to hear so many people cheering my name and shouting encouragement. I was very pleased with my form today.
Cipollini retired a few weeks before the start of the 2005 Giro dItalia after winning a record 42 stages of that race, in addition to 12 stage wins at the Tour de France and 191 races overall in a professional career that began in 1989.
Rock Racings other finishers were Columbian Victor Hugo Pena (47th, 18 seconds behind) and Americans Freddie Rodriguez (51st, 18 seconds behind), Doug Ollerenshaw (110th, 29 seconds behind) and Michael Creed (121st, 32 seconds behind).
Rock Racing Team Owner Michael Ball said it was time to put controversy surrounding the team behind and get the race underway. On Saturday, Rock Racing was informed by race organizer AEG that three of its riders American Tyler Hamilton, Columbian Santiago Botero and Oscar Sevilla would not be able to start.
We may have the fewest riders in the race but I dont think anyone is counting us out, Ball said. Mario and Freddie have the full support of the team and we fully expect to contend for a stage win over the next couple of days.
Rock Racing's Mario Cipollini is already proving that he was worth whatever money Michael Ball has agreed to pay him. Even at 40 years old, the Lion King landed a hotly contested third place finish at today's Tour of California Stage 2 finish in Sacramento but not while riding an official team DeRosa.
In fact, 'Cipo' is using virtually none of the team's officially sponsored gear. His bike is fitted with Shimano Dura-Ace instead of Campagnolo Record, Lightweight Standard wheels rather than the official Cole Products hoops, and he even uses Specialized tubular tires instead of the officially supplied Challenge rubber. In place of a Stella Azzurra stem is a carbon fiber Bontrager Race XXX Lite model (painted black on one bike) and Cipollini head is protected by a Specialized helmet, not a LAS.
But what of the frame itself? Cipo's frame bears no resemblance to anything in the DeRosa stable and is decorated only with large 'Cipollini' badging on the main triangle. Even JFK conspiracy theorists would be impressed with the amount of speculation that has circulated around exactly what the make and model is. We confirmed today that it's not a DeRosa of any sort, but contrary to popular belief, it isn't a Specialized or Max Lelli model, either.
Cipollini's aluminum frame does apparently use a handful of tubing and dropouts similar to what he used on his old Specialized E5 bike but it isn't welded in a Specialized factory. According to our sources, his frame was built by Simone Carlesso of Bassano del Grappa, Italy, the same person who built his bikes when Cipollini rode for the big 'S'.
In fact, it seems that Cipollini's choice of machine has little, if anything, to do with a dislike of Rock Racing's official equipment but rather a desire to stick with something familiar. The flamboyant Italian sprinter may still be fast but at this stage in his career he's not terribly interested in getting accustomed to something totally new. Seeing as how he is Mario Cipollini after all, apparently even Michael Ball can't tell him what to do.