Pedaling Toward Redemption
Are the reputations of some riders too far damaged?
In the closing kilometers of stage 4 in this year's Giro d'Italia, Danilo Di Luca (Vini Fantini-Selle Italia) attacked. However, he was caught just before the finish line and crossed the line in 24th place.
Stage 1 of the 2013 Amgen Tour of California started and ended in Escondido. It was a tough stage with a climb over Mt Palmar in addition to temperatures over 100 degrees. In the last 5 kilometers Lieuwe Westra (Vacansoleil-DCM) attacked with Francisco Mancebo (5-Hour Energy p/b Kenda) hot on his tail. In a sprint for the stage win Westra was the fastest with Mancebo finishing in second place.
On both occasions my Twitter timeline (which I use as a barometer for people's opinions - admittedly not the most scientific method) exploded with people rooting against them. “Yeh for Westra - anyone is better than Mancebo.” someone tweeted. It was the same type of comments aimed at Di Luca - not a lot of love for his strong attack - or his team's sponsors.
Di Luca doesn't have the cleanest history in the sport. He was implicated in the “Oil for Drugs” doping scandal and was also popped for CERA in the 2009 Giro d’Italia. He was suspended for two years. However, he cooperated with the Italian anti-doping authorities and had his suspension reduced to nine months.
The 37-year-old rider hasn't garnered a lot of love because, while he's admitted to doping and cooperated, he hasn't taken on the role of an anti-doping rider like Garmin-Sharp's David Millar. Di Luca is more a shrug of the shoulders like, “Yeah I got caught”, gave some evidence, and got on with his career.
Fast forward to this year and Di Luca is without a team - or is he? Ten days before the start of the Giro d’Italia, Di Luca was hired to ride in the hi-viz colors of Team Vini Fantini-Selle Italia. Apparently he'd had a deal with Vini Fantini back in November, so there you go - another rider from the “old guard” returns to racing.
Mancebo, while not implicated in any doping scandals, was linked to Operation Puerto. He was never charged with doping and always said he was innocent. However, he left the European racing scene when his name came up in Operation Puerto (mainly because he couldn't get a contract with a team) and has been racing in the States since 2009, racking up wins along the way. In fact he is so consistent that the Spanish rider is a two-time National Racing Calendar champion.
I asked about Mancebo at the 5 Hour Energy-Kenda training camp and team director Frankie Andreu told me, “I can’t control what went on, but I can control what goes on now and what he did when he came to America. That means setting a good example, no tolerance for doping and not going down that road. We stand for a clean sport and the consequences of how it affects everyone.”
The common thread between these two men is doping: one resolved, the other not. Di Luca comes