(Zolder, Belgium) October 13, 2002 – Mario Cipollini is the new World Champion Cycling. “Super Mario” was already the big favourite for the title and he neatly finished off the tremendous effort of the complete Italian squad to beat his nearest rivals Australia's Robbie McEwen and Germany's Erik Zabel in a mass sprint. 35 year-old Cipollini is the first Italian World Champion since Gianni Bugno claimed his second successive title in 1992.
As expected, it was hardly possible to escape from the pack at the 13.1 km long track in Zolder, Belgium. The circuit was suppose to suit the sprinters best and therefore the Italian team tried to keep all the cyclists together in order to give their team mate Mario Cipollini – who made his World Championship debut – a shot for his first career World Championship and the first Italian title for professionals in ten years.
Although there was yet another big crash just a few kilometres from the finish line, all the big sprinters were able to enter the last finish straight. As McEwen and Zabel battled it out for the hot spot behind
Cipollini's back, “Rei Leone” took the lead 150 metres from the end and could not be challenged. His team mates were already celebrating before Cipollini had crossed the finish line.
With the World title, Cipollini has put the crown on one of his most successful seasons ever. Despite the big disappointment of not being able to compete in the Tour de France, Cipollini won six stages at the Giro d'Italia and three at the Vuelta a EspaÃƒÂ±a. Besides that he won Milano – San Remo and Gent – Wevelgem. All in all, Cipollini has now 181 career victories.
Elite Men Road Race, 256km
1. Mario Cipollini (Ita) 5.30.03 (46.54 km/h)
2. Robbie McEwen (Aus)
3. Erik Zabel (Ger)
4. Andrej Hauptman (Slo)
5. Zoran Klemencic (Slo)
6. Jimmy Casper (Fra)
7. Jaan Kirsipuu (Est)
8. Sven Teutenberg (Ger)
9. Baden Cooke (Aus)
10. Julian Dean (NZl)
37 Charles Dionne (Can)