Riccò returns to the peloton
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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Riccò returns to the peloton

by Neil Browne at 8:22 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling

The rider nick-named “The Cobra” for his sudden attacks, Riccardo Riccò, will see the end of his sanction for doping tomorrow, and was hoping to race this Saturday in Milan-Sanremo. However, in late January his girlfriend, double Italian cyclocross champion Vania Rossi, was found positive for the drug CERA, a third generation variant of EPO.

When the list of invited teams to La Primavera were announced two days later his Ceramica Flaminia squad was not included. He blamed his girlfriend's positive as the reason for the team's exclusion to Italy's biggest one-day race.

CERA was the same drug Riccò was found positive for in the 2008 Tour de France which then resulted in his suspension.  He was originally suspended for two years, but it was later reduced to twenty months because of his cooperation with the investigation.

The Italian has denied any involvement with Rossi's positive for CERA, but expected to be blamed anyway. It was at this point that Riccò broke off his relationship with the mother of his newborn son. He deflected involvement by telling the press he'd been away at a training camp and had not been with Rossi for three months as a result.

He will make his return to racing this Tuesday with his new Ceramica Flaminia team at the Settimana internazionale Coppi e Bartali. Now, in contrast to the brash talking Riccò of the past, in a statement on tuttobiciweb.it he sounds a bit more humbled.

"For me this is a second debut and it is a strange feeling. I have been a bike racer since I was a child and I have many debuts, but this is certainly the most important of my career.”

Called a 'parasite' by Mark Cavendish, Riccò reaches out for forgiveness to all those he has disappointed.

“I worked a lot to be prepared for this new opportunity. Cycling is my job and  from this time forward I will not commit the same mistakes of the past. I thank everyone who made me feel their love and their concern for me. I thank my new team, I have fabulous friends, well-trained technicians and an excellent staff. I also thank my opponents, with whom I shall race during the season.

"I realize I was wrong, but I am a human being too and make mistakes in life. Excuse me. I want to apologize to all cycling enthusiasts, athletes, executives, journalists, the entire world for my mistakes of the past. Henceforth you will know another Riccardo.”

With the suspension over, the 26-year old Italian known for his climbing wants to return to a sport he loves.

“The enthusiasm for cycling in me has never switched off. I ask only to be able to show everybody that I love this sport. Now I know that you have to race honestly and improve only through sacrifice and hard work, but most importantly you must give up short-cuts [doping]. That is the shortest route to failure for an athlete. I miss the world of cycling very much and I won't run away from it again. "

After twenty months of no competition and claiming to be racing clean, Riccò will face a challenging five-day stage race. Last year the race was won by compatriot Damiano Cunego and is considered preparation for the Giro d' Italia. The question remains - can this new 'Cobra' strike again and will RCS invite his team to their marquee event?


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