His sense of theatre clearly intact, Mario Cipollini tells a press conference expecting an announcemPICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Mario Cipollini has this morning dramatically quashed rumours of his impending retirement by confirming that he will ride for the Liquigas-Bianchi team next year. In a press conference in Milan on Friday morning, the 37-year-old sprinter announced that he had signed an agreement with team boss Roberto Amadio to tackle the Pro Tour with Liquigas in 2005. Having acrimoniously split with Domina Vacanze and their team manager Vincenzo Santoni after a long-running dispute, Cipollini had been expected to sign for French team Cofidis or the German-based Gerolsteiner, both of whom will ride on Specialized bikes next season. Cipollini's links with the American bike manufacturer remain strong despite his wretched results on Specialized machines for Domina Vacanze in 2004. The Lion Kingûs manager, Mauro Battaglini, said only a week ago: "I can guarantee that Mario will ride in a foriegn team." While Cofidis apparently balked at Cipollini's wage demands, Gerolsteiner hinted publicly that they feared the flamboyant sprinter's destabilising influence. Lance Armstrong's Discovery team and another Belgian sponsor were also rumoured to have been contacted by Battaglini. At Liquigas, Cipollini will team up with Dario Cioni, Danilo Di Luca, Magnus Backstedt, Franco Pellizotti and Stefano Garzelli in one of the most eclectic, and potentially most explosive, mixes in the Pro Tour.