Cipollini Farewell Ride is the Highlight of the 2005 Giro d'Italia Prologue

I watched the Prologue of the Giro d'Italia on Outdoor Life Network earlier today. I thought that the staging of the Prologue was quite imaginative. The setting was a seaside promenade in Reggio Calabria at the southern tip of Italy. According to the stage description, Gabriele d'Annunzio called this road the most beautiful kilometer in Italy. From what I could tell, the promenade could have been similar to Ocean Drive in the South Beach section of Miami Beach.

The Prologue was staged at night, ending at about 10:30pm local time. The entire 1150 meter course was flood lit. It was the closest thing you could get to a human-powered drag race and probably got huge TV ratings in Italy.

Brett Lancaster won the Prologue by covering the 1150 meter course in 1 minute 20.958 seconds. The gaps between riders after this stage are unimportant due to the shortness of the course.

The Prologue ended with an unofficial ride by cycling legend Mario Cipollini. The 1.15-kilometer course was a perfect way to honor the greatest showman in professional cycling as he retires. He rode the course in a full-length pink skinsuit on a pink Bianchi time trial bike. This was a tribute to the Giro d'Italia itself, which uses the color pink as its signature in the same way that the Tour de France uses the color yellow.

During his 16-year career as a professional cyclist, Cipollini won a record 42 Giro d'Italia stages. He had the name of each of the finishing cities for those stages printed on his skinsuit. He also had the words "Sweet Years" printed on the shoulders and had the rainbow-colored bands of a world champion on the cuffs and neck of the skinsuit.

For those readers who do not normally follow the Giro, Mario Cipollini is famous for donning a different custom-made skinsuit for the prologue each year. Although he also did this in the Tour de France on a few occasions, this is really a Giro tradition.

As I watched Cipollini cruise down the promenade to the cheers of thousands of cycling fans, I knew that I was watching the end of an era which is probably about as significant for world cycling as Lance Armstrong's retirement will be when it occurs a few months from now.