By Brecht Decaluwé
Ben Berden is known to be a tough man. During the past decade Berden was a serious contender against guys like Erwin Vervecken, Bart Wellens and of course Sven Nys. However, back in December 2004 – while he was third on the UCI-rankings – Berden tested positive for EPO. The Belgian admitted to using the drug, but since has publically regretted taking that step. As a result of the positive test, Berden's team John Saey fired him and the team immediately stopped with sponsorship.
Berden received a 15-months ban from the Belgian federation but the UCI fought this decision and appealed to the CAS because they found the normal two year ban was more appropriate. In December 2005 the judges from the CAS were fired because they had their decision ready before hearing Ben Berden.
During that time Berden heard that he would have to pay €60000 court costs. He appealed against that decision but last month it turned out he made that decision too late. "I'm being punished for my honesty," Berden said. He claimed he would have to ride three cross seasons to pay the money back. "It would all have been better if I would have kept lying," Berden reacted in the Flemish newspapers.
One month later and Berden has a new sponsor and is once again concentrating on his racing. After returning from his doping ban last season with the support of a personal sponsor, Webking, the 32 year-old from Neeroeteren posted some strong results that no doubt attracted the attention of his new team. Before the Superprestige round on Sunday Berden was spotted in front of a mobile home, on a new Focus bike – which was too small – and in the colours from the new Revor team. "With my previous sponsor Webking it was OK, but I had to do everything myself. Now things are more professional so I can focus on what is really important and that is racing my bike," Berden explained to Cyclingnews.
"With this new small Belgian team my goal is to finish in the UCI top-10 by the end of the season." Berden may have visually changed since his doping ban, sporting armfuls of tatoos, but his ambition is still what it used to be. "On Saturday I finished eighth in Mouscron and I'm OK with that. Every race I'm getting better so right now I'm hoping for a World Cup selection. I have always proven that I'm worthy enough to feature in a World Cup event and I feel that I've shown to be better than Davy Commeyne and David Willemsens this year.
"Ruddervoorde isn't my favourite course, but in Kalmthout I'm always good. I received my first World Cup selection for that race and finished third back then," Berden recalled. Sadly enough for the Belgian he finished 20th in Ruddervoorde and that might have inspired national coach Rudy De Bie in his choice to leave him out of the selection. De Bie opted for young riders Rob Peeters (Landbouwkrediet) and Dieter Vanthourenhout instead of Berden, but should one of those ten riders fail to maker it to the start line, Berden stands ready as the first reserve.