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The Legend of Mario Cipollini - The Lion King, Cycling Trendsetter

Updated on February 1, 2013
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Liam Hallam is a sports science graduate. A keen cyclist, runner, and obstacle racer, he ran his first ultra-marathon in 2016.

'Cipo',The Lion King, Il Rei Leone, Mooie Mario (Pretty Mario)

World Road Race Champion in 2002, 42 career stages wins in the Giro d’Italia, 3 times Maglia Ciclamino winner in the Giro d’Italia and 12 career stage wins in the Tour de France Bicycle Race. There is no arguing that ‘Super’ Mario Cipollini was not a successful road cyclist.

Nicknamed ‘The Lion King’ due to his flowing hair style Mario Cipollini won 193 professional cycle races in his career which marks him out to many as one of the best sprinters of all time and the finest of his generation.

Super Mario was the ultimate cycling trendsetter with a sense of style bellowing his Italian nationality and a habit of courting controversy due to his colourful personality.

Mario Cipollini Riding for Rock Racing

Cipollini Image; Rock Racing in the Tour of California warming up before the individual time trial
Cipollini Image; Rock Racing in the Tour of California warming up before the individual time trial

A Sprint Train in action during a bike race

A Sprint Train in full flow
A Sprint Train in full flow

The Legendary Mario Cipollini Sprint Train

If you watch cycling races now you'll notice that on flat stages that all of the big cycling teams have their own 'sprint train'. Mark Cavendish- the current king of the sprinters has a team which works to deliver him to within a few hundred metres of the finish line and then 'The Manx Missile' fires and finishes the job the whole team has done.

Mario Cipollini was one of the first sprinters to have a designated sprint 'train'. He set up a chain of riders whose sole responsibility was to take him to within a relatively short distance of the finish line and this technique has transformed the finishes of flat stages in races like the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia. Thanks to Super Mario.

Bringing Character into Competitive Cycling

Charm and charisma in abundance and a colourful personality are what many adore Mario Cipollini for. He once remarked that if he hadn't been a Professional Cyclist he would have been a Porn Star and many believe that would have been true.

Regarded as a sex symbol throughout Italy and a reputation for partying has made Mario Cipollini an icon that many men look up to.

Cipollini enraged race organisers with his disliking of mountain stages, particularly in the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana. Often quiting races before they headed into the high mountains before being regularly snapped sunning himself at the beach while the races continued.

He courted controversy violating UCI (Union Cicliste International) rules by changing team kits for extra publicity which led to numerous fines from race organisers however the immense levels of publicity he received meant sponsors were more than happy to pick up the fines.

Favourite Mario Cipollini Quotes

Often outspoken and never a person who would shy away from controversy which has led to some unique and very intense Mario Cipollini quotes.

One of the authors favourites is

"If you brake, you don't win."

Cipo's racing has always been about bravado, machismo and attitude.

“At the beginning of a sprint, I felt like a gladiator, ready to do anything to keep my place. And when I lost, I wasn’t capable of going to congratulate whoever had beaten me, like Andy Schleck did at the Tour. Me, I’d hate him because he’d taken the bread from my mouth."

He's always hated racers who have used others to get their precious seconds and results.

Mario 'Julius Caesar' Cipollini

Image of Cipollini dressed as Caesar. Great publicity for his Saeco Team
Image of Cipollini dressed as Caesar. Great publicity for his Saeco Team

Retro Mario Cipollini for the Saeco team in the 1996 Tour de France

Mario Cipollini in Italian Champions Kit during the Team Time Trial- Tour de France 1996
Mario Cipollini in Italian Champions Kit during the Team Time Trial- Tour de France 1996

The Outfits

Super Mario was always a showman and he often did this through his choice of cycling outfits and this often caused outrage at his choice of outfits

He was fined by Tour De France organisers for wearing an All yellow outfit while wearing the Yellow Jersey a practice that many Tour de France leaders how now picked up on. Mario Cipollini was the full leaders outfit trendsetter.

To celebrate the birthday of Julius Caesar Super Mario and his team donned a Caesar Inspired kit (as pictured) and were fined 100 swiss francs by Tour de France Organisers however the publicity gained by the outfit far outstripped the fine for a very media savvy Cipollini and his Saeco Cannondale team.

One of Cipollini's most famous and well known outfits is a Muscle Skin Suit showing the working anatomy of the body. The suit eventually fetched 100 million Italian Lira (around $43,000 usd) in a charity auction which equated to over 100 times the fine received.

Mario Cipollini - All in Yellow at the Tour de France

MCipollini Bikes. Italian Style and Mario's flare

Sleek Italian styling on mCipollini bikes
Sleek Italian styling on mCipollini bikes | Source

Mario Cipollini Businessman


After finally retiring from Professional Cycling initially worked as an advisor to the Italian ISD- Neri cycling team and in 2010 launched his own brand of bicycles and cycling equipment under the mCipollini name with bikes which cater for strong powerful riders like Mario was in his heyday.

For info on mCipollini bikes visit http://www.mcipollini.com/en/

Mario Cipollini in action in the Tour Of California 2008

Super Mario 'Cipo' in action during the Tour of California for Rock Racing
Super Mario 'Cipo' in action during the Tour of California for Rock Racing

The Gran Fondo Mario Cipollini

Gran Fondo's are Italy's large sportive events open to all. The Gran Fondo Mario Cipollini pays homage to Mario Cipollini and is based around the Tuscan town of Lucca and into the Parish of St Task where Mario was born and includes the climbs of the Passo Lucese and Monte Serra in it's full 140 km route. Shorter routes of 49 km and 112 kilometers are available for those wishing for a shorter route.

For more info please see the Gran Fondo Mario Cipollini Official Website

Mario Cipollini 1991 Giro d'Italia

Cipollini in action in the 1991 Giro d'Italia in Piedmont
Cipollini in action in the 1991 Giro d'Italia in Piedmont

Photo Credits

Mario Cipollini in the Tour Of California- The Dublin Reeds CC-BY on Flickr.

Mario Cipollini in the 1996 Tour De France- Numerius CC-BY on Flickr

Sprint Chain in Full Flow- TimothyJ CC-BY on Flickr

Cipollini Rock Racing Neeta Lind CC-BY on Flickr

Cipollini 1991 Giro d'Italia ta_do on Flickr

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