Gimondi, himself a former cycling great, said he believed that the future of the sport lay in mountain biking and said the team were actively considering deploying their controversial spearhead Pantani, who is an accomplished climber in mountain stages, in that that discipline.
"The idea is there," said Gimondi. "There was a time when road-race specialists could also lay down the law in mountain biking but now it has become an extreme discipline the events are very different.
"... We could do it with Marco maybe at next year's World Championships."
Gimondi also said he would advise youngsters to consider mountain biking rather than road-racing, saying: "Road-racing gave me so much, I can not deny it. But if I had a son today I would not put him on the roads, cycling has become too dangerous."
Pantani is currently enmeshed in a series of legal cases relating to alleged doping offences.
Iditasport "Impossible" starts Feb. 24
The panting parade to Nome started Feb. 24 when some 120 mountain bikers, skiers and runners jumped on the Iditarod Trail at Knik.
Minus endurance-biking legend John Stamstad, the human-powered Iditasport heads north as a trio of progressively longer ultra-marathons with a combined purse of approximately $80,000.
Most of the field is in the 120-mile competition to Finger Lake on the south slope of the Alaska Range, but better than a third of the starters plan to push on over the mountains to McGrath where the "Iditasport Extreme" portion of the race ends.
There the field drops down to about 20. They keep going for Nome in the second annual "Iditasport Impossible."
Coloradan Mike Curiak, who won last year, is back to defend. He hopes to beat the Iditarod dogs, which leave Anchorage next Saturday, to the finish line.
Curiak's stiffest competition is expected to come from Greg Blackwell, a young Canadian who has challenged Stamstad in past Extremes.
There is also a chance a skier could beat the bikers to McGrath for the first time ever. Fairbanks' "Bad Bob" Baker, who has skied both the Iditarod and Yukon Quest trails, is thought to have the speed and endurance to do that, though he might face one serious obstacle.
Snowmachine racers in this year's Iron Dog reported so little snow on the Iditarod Trail between Rohn and Nikolai that they were kicking up clouds of dust.
Anchorage Daily News