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 Sunday, 13 October, 2002, 15:06 GMT 16:06 UK
Super Mario snatches world crown
Cipollini makes his way to the start at Zolder
Mario Cipollini retired after missing the Tour de France
Italian great Mario Cipollini came out of retirement to win his first world championship road title in a mass sprint finish in Belgium on Sunday.

The 35-year-old was given the perfect lead-out to beat joint favourites Australian Robbie McEwen and Germany's Erik Zabel.

Cipollini exploded clear of the pack to win the 159-mile race by two bike lengths.

"It's unbelievable everything that I've been able to do this year," he said of his victory at the Zolder motor racing circuit.

Cipollini had announced his retirement in July after he was not invited to compete in the Tour de France.

But he reconsidered his decision two months ago to begin preparing for the world championships.

"Cycling is my life; it's so important," he said. "It's a great joy that inspires me to go still further."

Wet conditions made the flat circuit slippery early on, but it was just two miles from the finish that a mass crash occured.

Of the other expected contenders, Spain's defending champion Oscar Freire lost his chance of a third win in four years when he encountered mechanical problems with nine miles to go.

And former world number one Laurent Jalabert ended his career at the championships without ever being up among the leaders.

Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong did not compete, while Germany's Jan Ullrich was absent serving a doping ban.


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