Wed, Jun 04, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Mario Cipollini will not be included in the Tour de France

AP , ROME

Mario Cipollini will not be invited to the Tour de France after all, a spokesman for his team confirmed Monday.

The world road race champion was hoping Tour officials would alter their plans and offer a last-minute invitation to his Domina Vacanze team, but the Italian sprinter was notified Monday that would not be the case.

Claudio Santi, the director of the Italian cyclists federation, was told of the decision by Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc, Cipollini's team spokesman Gilberto Petrucci confirmed.

The decision was bound to be met by heavy criticism in cycling circles.

Two weeks ago, when Cipollini's team was not named as one of the final four wild card entries for this year's Tour, Leblanc was besieged by calls to admit the "king of the sprinters."

Many of Cipollini's fellow cyclists, among them four-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong, and team officials said the world champion's team should gain automatic entry into cycling's most prestigious event.

Following the latest rejection, Cipollini released a brief statement saying he prefers ``not to talk about the decision.''

Tour officials were unavailable for comment late Monday.

Cipollini recently set the all-time record of 42 stage wins in the Giro d'Italia, the second most prestigious race in the sport, eclipsing the 70-year-old record previously held by Alfredo Binda.

He has won 12 stages in the Tour de France, but never completed the race.

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