The famous historian and cyclist, Giles Ripwell, tries to get to the bottom of the latest furore involving Team Sky.
Crikey! It seems that hardly a month has gone by in the last year and a bit where there hasn’t been some kind of scandal surrounding Team Sky, the United Kingdoms of Great Britain’s number one cycling outfit. What with the TUE’s, jiffy bags, testosterone patches, recovery injections, and stolen computers there are now more gates in Sky’s recent history than in the founder of Microsoft’s house during a family get together. All of these episodes have hurt Sky’s reputation but they have managed to carry on regardless and have had a rather successful season. However Puffergate, the newest hoo-ha, might cause Team Sky to discombobulate like your laptop after a Windows update.
But that’s enough of the computer based analogies and time to find out exactly what the devil has happened and what the future may hold for those concerned with what has happened.
Today’s stage finishes in Cagliari on the south coast of Sardinia. The last rider to cross the line there first in a stage of the Giro d’Italia was Alessandro Petacchi in 2007. But as he was found to have high levels of salbutamol in his system later on in the race his results were annulled*. So the last rider to cross the line first in Cagliari and still be the official winner is Mario Cipollini.
It was 1991 and the victory was the 24 year old’s 4th Giro stage win, it was evident that he was hungry and able to win plenty more. Confident as the youngster was though he might not have thought at some point he would be gunning for Alfredo Binda’s record number of stage wins at the Giro. The benchmark of 41 had stood firm since 1933. Learco Guerra came closest to it with 31 stages by the end of the 30’s and Eddy Merckx had “only” managed 24 through the 60’s and 70’s.
But Cipollini had arrived in a different time than Binda, Guerra and Merckx. The era of epic performances in black and white was over, the colour television age had arrived and ‘Super Mario’ knew how to benefit from this time both on and off the bike. Cippo forged himself a flamboyant image and is as well known for the tiger print and muscle skin suits he wore during time trials than he is for his wins. As the years pass he is getting known for wearing less and less as he wastes no opportunity to show off his impressive physique. One of his many nicknames is the “Italian Stallion” and according to his Wikipedia page he is rumoured to be a womaniser. All of this made him incredibly marketable and very rich but he also needed to be winning to keep his legend alive.