Italy's Marzio Bruseghin continues his early season racing on home roads at the Giro del Friuli on Wednesday but is happy to line up with the Spanish Caisse d'Epargne team despite leader Alejandro Valverde's being banned from competing in Italy.
Valverde cannot race in Italy after he was found guilty of being involved in Operacion Puerto by Italian anti-doping investigators. The Spanish courts have failed to get to the bottom of the huge doping investigation, meaning that Valverde is allowed to race in the rest of the world until the Court of Arbitration for Sport issues a final verdict.
Bruseghin left Lampre to join Caisse d'Epargne for the 2010 season. He rode with the same Spanish management set-up between 1999 and 2002 when the team was sponsored by Banesto.
He shrugs off the tension between Italy and Spain and has no qualms about praising Valverde.
"I'll be honest. I like Valverde. He's a real rider, who's proved it by the way he's raced and won big races time and time again. I know he's been accused of a lot of things but he's always insisted he's innocent," Bruseghin told Cyclingnews as he got ready to race close to his home in the northeast of Italy.
"Valverde's banned from racing in Italy but not in the rest of the world. Sadly, every country seems to have different rules and that's not fair for anyone. For example, Colonel Gaddafi has been banned from going to Switzerland but he's allowed to travel to Italy. There's no uniformity and that's not right whoever they are. It's such a complicated case and I don't feel I'm the one who should decide if it's right or wrong. Lets leave that to the judges."
Giro d'Italia leader
Whatever happens to Valverde in the next few months, Bruseghin will lead the Caisse d'Epargne team at the Giro d'Italia in May.
He finished third overall in the 2008 Giro d'Italia, but at 35 he is now happy to share the leadership with other rides in the squad.
"I don't feel old. I still like riding my bike and so I'm going to keep going for a while yet. We'll have a good strong team for the Giro. We'll have experienced riders and some talented young guys like Rigoberto Uran who could do well in this year's tough Giro. I'm perhaps the team leader but instead of everything being just for me, everyone will have a chance and we'll all help each other."
Bruseghin revealed he has a two-year contract with the team and is not worried that the French Caisse d'Epargne bank is set to end its backing this year.
"I'm confident a new sponsor can be found for the team," he said. "It's got a long tradition of success and it's a team structure that a sponsor can trust to get results. If I was a sponsor I'd invest in the team."
Bruseghin will lead the Caisse d'Epargne team at the Giro del Friuli on Wednesday. He is still working on his form and preferred to pick fellow local rider Franco Pellizotti as a possible winner.
"Peli is making his season debut at Friuli but it's a race that suits him. The final climb is only 11km from the finish and so it suits a fast guy. Of course Lorenzetto won it last year and it could also suit a sprinter who can climb well.
"I'll just be hoping to show my face to my fans out on the route. I tend to follow the seasons and will hopefully bloom later in the year when it gets warmer."