Thomas Dekker doesn't have a team for the 2011 season, but he has set himself goals: the Tours of Austria and Spain. “I feel like a cyclist now. When I'm cycling, I feel happy,” he said.
The 26-year-old is still serving a two-year ban for EPO, and will be eligible to ride again this summer. “Later on we will be looking for a team, but right now I am open to everything. I am not in a position to make demands,” he said in an interview with the AD Sportwereld.
“On July 1, I can race again. It would be nice if I could ride the Tour of Austria. And then later is the Vuelta a Espana, which is the ideal scenario.”
Longer term he would like to race the Tour de France in 2012. “But I don't want to read anywhere that I am going to win the Tour.”
His comeback preparations received a blow last fall when a knee problem developed. Dekker injured a meniscus, not by cycling but by overdoing the running. “The operation was difficult, especially mentally,” Dekker admitted.
Shortly before the problem started, he had not only been training hard but had also done very well in tests with Dutch coach Adrie van Deimen. Now he is recovered enough to take the tests again.
"Those tests are the key,” Dekker added. “People need to know where I stand. They shouldn't think that after I spent half a year in the gutter, that I just jumped in the sun bank three times and that I'm full of drugs.”
For a year now, the Dutchman has had help getting his life and career back together. Martijn and Eelco Berkhout took over his management, moving him from Italy to Belgium, and setting up his training plans.
After Dekker's “half a year in the gutter”, it was slow going to get back in shape. But his rehabilitation has dealt with issues more important than riding.
“I know that I can come back with my head held high. That makes me feel stronger. I made a mistake and have paid for it.
“And of course there are people around me who could have advised me better. I don't resent it. But we will see who ultimately has the better life.”