Former sprint king Mario Cipollini is set to come out of retirement and sign a contract with American team Rock and Republic, La Gazzetta dello Sport reported on Friday.
The 40-year-old, 2002 world champion, who arrived in California to negotiate with team officials, retired two years ago but is expected to formally complete a deal shortly.
The Italian would likely start competition at the Tour of California from February 17 to 24 and then take part in about 15 races for the rest of the year.
The American team, led by Michael Ball, who is both involved with Rock and Republic clothing as well as being team owner, wants to make the most of Cipollini's popularity, his personality and his experience to help the team progress. According to Gazzetta, Ball's project is to make his team, currently composed of young American cyclists, the best in the world in five year's time.
Cipollini has an amazing record at the pinnacle of the sport, winning 12 stages in the Tour de France, the most prestigious event in cycling, plus a record 42 in the Tour of Italy. But he recently ran foul of Italian authorities, being asked to pay €1.1 million in outstanding tax for revenue earned in the years 1998 and 1999. At the time, he claimed he was living outside Italy, but the investigating magistrate noted that he paid frequent visits to his family who lived in Lucca, Italy.
Cipollini faces a further fine for tax evasion in the year 2004.
© BikeRadar and AFP 2008