Rock Racing’s Mario Cipollini is already proving that he was worth whatever money team owner Michael Ball has agreed to pay him.
Even at forty 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.
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.
In fact, the California company has no formal agreement with Cipollini at all and has no rights to use his image or likeness as such (and believe us, if Specialized could use it, it certainly would).
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.
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'.
Seeing as how he is Mario Cipollini after all, apparently even Michael Ball can’t tell him what to do.
Click here to read more about Cipo from Procycling's Daniel Friebe, on the road in California.