No more second chances at Vacansoleil: "We will not do that anymore."
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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

No more second chances at Vacansoleil: "We will not do that anymore."

by Jered Gruber at 6:31 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Riccardo Ricco ensures that no former suspended riders need apply to Dutch team

It was always going to be a controversial signing - Riccardo Ricco, that is. Someone was certain to sign him, the only question was who.

First, it was the small Italian squad, Ceramica Flaminia. That was hardly a surprise, but when Vacansoleil stepped in, the eyebrows raised and incredulous questions followed, including riders from within the Dutch team.

The dismay seemed to quieten down as the year went on. Despite Ezequiel Mosquera's positive test at the Vuelta and despite some unknown pills seized at Ricco's house, things appeared headed to more or less normalcy. That is, as much as you can hope for when you're dealing with a rider still in embroiled in a doping case and another that's, well, a pariah.

The Vacansoleil battle cry was that of the second chance. Team manager Daan Luijkx felt that the returning riders deserved a second chance. That's certainly not unfair. As long as there are doping suspensions that do not read 'lifetime,' a second chance will often follow. And for Luijkx, he couldn't have been too far off to think, 'well, why not Ricco?'

Unfortunately, he appears to have chosen poorly, and when the rider who linked up with the late Aldo Sassi just a couple of months before his death turned up in a hospital following an apparent blood transfusion gone wrong, everything came crashing down.

Now, Luijkx says he won't be making the mistake ever again.

Speaking to Dutch news source, NOS, the manager confirmed what will be satisfying news to some. Henceforth, the second chance does not exist at Vacansoleil-DCM.

"We will not do that anymore," he insists.
It was a hard learned lesson for the Dutch team that has steadily marched upward toward a spot amongst the world's best. But for Vacansoleil, the collective headache of both Ricco and Mosquera has made it abundantly clear that they won't be opting into this misery anymore. Suspended riders need apply elsewhere.

In some ways, it's a pity. A rider like Björn Leukemans got his second chance with Vacansoleil and has done wonders with it and appears to be racing as a clean rider. Looking back, one could say they took a chance with Leukemans, and he honored it to perfection. Unfortunately, there won't be another Leukemans on Vacansoleil. The idea of rehabilitation and the second chance left with Ricco.


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