Riccardo Ricco set to return to the ProTour?
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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Riccardo Ricco set to return to the ProTour?

by Jered Gruber at 2:25 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Italian pays 75,000 euro to buy out his contract, which team will pick up the tainted star?

Michael Rasmussen isn't the only ex-suspended rider looking to make a return to the sport's top level at the upcoming Vuelta a Espana. Disgraced prodigy, Riccardo Ricco, has enjoyed a successful comeback following his nearly two year suspension for CERA-EPO in the 2008 Tour de France. The Italian recently confirmed his ascension back to the top of the climbing elite with stage wins in each of the Tour of Austria's major climbing stages and the overall title following a broken nose on the penultimate stage.

Ricco's contract with Italian professional continental team Ceramica Flaminia was supposed to be a major problem for the soon to be 27 year old's start at this year's Vuelta, but 75,000 euro was apparently enough to solve that problem. The former runner-up at the Giro to Alberto Contador bought out his own contract and is now a free man in search of a ride.

The second place finisher at the Settimana Lombarda and Giro del Trentino this year can count great interest from two ProTour teams according to his manager. Ricco's manager would not name any teams, but previous reports, as well as his manager, confirmed an interest from Patrick Lefevere's QuickStep team.

The winner of six races in 2010 can also look to a return to Spain for his comeback to the ProTour. Numerous reports indicate that Ricco has possibilities in the country that gave him his ProTour start with Saunier Duval.

The future of Eusebio Unzue's Caisse d'Epargne team looks anything but assured at the moment with the exit of his title sponsor, but if Unzue can net rumored sponsors, Telefonica and Santander, to take over sponsorship of his team, Ricco could be a powerful addition.

It doesn't appear like it will be very long before the Cobra will be taking part in the the biggest races again. His short sentence outside the confines of the ProTour should be coming to an end in the near future - it would seem highly unlikely that Ricco would pay the 75,000 euro buy-out if he wasn't certain of a deal for 2011, and hopefully something as soon as the Vuelta.

Vuelta organizers would certainly be pleased to see the climbing star return to the Grand Tour stage if only for the theater he would certainly bring to this September's trip around Spain. The incredibly mountainous route is certainly one that the native of Formigine in Modena has dreamt of, and with the inclusion of both of the Schlecks and two-time winner Denis Menchov already, the Vuelta could be heading toward one of its most impressive editions in recent years. 



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