Anywhere Cipollini goes his clairvoyant is sure to follow
Posted: Friday July 17, 1998 02:52 PM
Special from L'Equipe, the French sports daily
PARIS (CNN/SI) -- Mario Cipollini has not been the same since he met Diamantina, a clairvoyant who now follows him everywhere he goes.
Diamentina is in her fifties, she doesn't have the tools to seduce the peloton's playboy, Mario Cipollini, anymore. But she follows him everywhere, because he asked her to.
She went to the Giro d'Italia and the Tour of Catalonia, and he won four stages in each. Now she's on the Tour de France.
Cipollini doesn't do anything without first consulting her. If tomorrow she asks him to go home, he will, whatever his coach or his sponsor say. Diamanta is a clairvoyant in Grosseto, in Toscany, Cipollini's province.
Their story, which the Gazzetta dello Sport's Pier Bergonzi told us, dates back to April of 1994. The Vuelta was beginning, and Diamentina got scared in front of her crystal ball. She tried to call Cipollini, but could only talk to his brother-in-law. "Mario must not take the start of the race, something terrible is going to happen to him," she told him.
Too late. Cipollini was already on his bike, and a few hours later, during the sprint finish in Salamanca, Mercatone Uno teammate Adriano Baffi pushed him against the fences. He literally flew, and landed on the asphalt, in a coma.
When Cipollini got out of the coma, he was told about Diamantina's prediction, and immediately went to see her. The clairvoyant offered him a small, blue lapis lazuli stone that he's been wearing ever since.
It's easy to understand why. He's become the best sprinter in the world, and Thursday the stone's magic worked again.
He was phenomenal, catching up with Erik Zabel in the last 100 meters and finally winning a stage in this Tour's most beautiful sprint finish so far.
Bad luck didn't struck this time. In two of the previous three sprint finishes, in Dublin and Cholet, he finished on the ground. And in Cork, he placed third, behind Jan Svorada and Robbie McEwen.
"I started this Tour with the intention to take the yellow jersey quickly and to keep it for a few days," Cipollini said Thursday. "Unfortunately, everything went wrong as soon as we got to Dublin. I should have won several times, because I'm in great shape. Only bad fate prevented me from doing so. In 10 years, I haven't fallen often. It just had to happen twice in four days here. In the Tour, sprints are very animated, a lot more than elsewhere. Everyone wants to be in front. The favorites, who don't want to be surprised by a break. Us sprint specialists, of course. But also a good many other riders for whom a third or fourth place is a great result in a race like this. So in the Tour, the risks you take in sprints are multiplied by 10 or 20..."
In Chateauroux, there was pushing and shoving between Cipollini and Erik Zabel, once again. "The day before, he pushed me already. Today, 500 meters before the finish line, while I was being taken there by Gian Matteo Fagnini, he did it again," Cipollini said.
Once the stage was over, the Italian looked back and gave Zabel a hard look. But the latter made peace immediately, tapping him on the shoulder, and eventually shaking his hand vigorously in front of the podium.
That's how Cipollini won his seventh Tour de France stage ever, eighth if you count the 1993 team time trial in Avranches, which allowed him to capture the yellow jersey. After tying Eddy Merckx' record of 25 Giro stage wins, he's closing in on Gino Bartali's 12 in the Tour. "To be their company in the record books is an immense fulfillment. When I was a kid, I played on the beach with my tin cyclists, and the best one was called Merckx," Cipollini recalled.
But Cipollini could also end up in another record category, because he hasn't finished any of the five Tour de France races he's competed in. He said again in Chateauroux what he says every year: "To get to the Champs Elysees is a dream. To get there wearing the green jersey is an even more beautiful dream," he said. Usually he doesn't do more than 10 stages. Does Diamentina see him heading home later then Tuesday?
Copyright (c) 1998 L'Equipe
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