Valjavec hoping for return to spotlight with Slovénie stage win
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Friday, June 14, 2013

Valjavec hoping for return to spotlight with Slovénie stage win

by Kyle Moore at 9:33 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Back from ban, Slovenian targeting mountainous stage three

Tadej ValjavecTadej Valjavec (Sava) is marking his return to the professional ranks in his biggest race since incurring a two-year ban from the sport in 2010 due to irregular blood values. Valjavec is captaining the Slovenian Sava squad, and has his sights set on Saturday’s mountainous stage three of the Tour de Slovénie.

Slovenia’s big stage race is being contested without its previous two champions, Janez Brajkovic and Diego Ulissi, and without any well-known climbers, and stage three seems to be up in the air. Team Colombia has a number of noted climbers in its ranks, as does Bardiani Valvole-CSF Inox with Giro d’Italia king of the mountains Stefano Pirazzi.

But a name that could be listed near the top is Valjavec, even though it’s been since 2009 that the Slovenian was mentioned at all.

Valjavec was caught by the UCI’s biological passport program for what was termed as irregular blood values. He was suspended and eventually fired by his team at the time, Ag2r La Mondiale. Though he was eventually cleared by the Slovenian cycling federation, this decision was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and he was handed a two-year ban, beginning in January of 2011.

Previous to this, Valjavec had been a reliable performer in stage races and grand tours, taking three top twenty finishes in the Tour de France, including tenth in 2008. He was eighth in the 2009 Giro d’Italia and seventh in the Tour de Suisse that year, leading half the race before losing it in the final time trial to Fabian Cancellara.

Though the 36-year-old now toils on a Slovenian continental squad, he believes he could factor in to his home race on Saturday.

“I know it will be hard to win, but it is certainly my goal,” he told the Slovenian website Vecer.com. “I don’t have tangible results yet, but nevertheless there are some signs that I’m well prepared. I’ve had to go hard from the beginning, especially in the [stage one] time trial, which is my weak point. Every second lost is hard to make up.”

Stage three of the Tour of Slovénie features three climbs; the Sorico, the Livske, and the Vrsic, which hasn’t been raced in six years. Valjavec considered his chances against the course and whom he thought could be contenders.

“Vrsic does not allow for any errors, although its length and slope are nothing special,” Valjavec added. “The climb is easier than the Livske, but it must be approached with respect. I have experienced bad moments on it before. Personally, I would be better suited on some other hill, but I think it is right that it has returned to the race. Vrsic is the most prominent climb in Slovenia.

“There are quite a few famous names, but I do not know any rider who would be able to dominate on the Vrsic. My main competitors are Patrik Sinkewitz and an ideally prepared Adriano Malori, but there will also be dangerous cyclists on other Slovenian teams. For our clubs, this is the peak of the season, and everyone will want to prove something, to the sponsors and supporters. There are also the mountain specialists from Colombia, and you can’t write off the Orica-GreenEdge team or any previous winner, like Jure Golcer and Tomaz Nose.”

Valjavec currently sits sixth overall in the Tour de Slovénie after two of four stages.

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