Thomas Dekker scored his first win since his comeback from a drug ban, winning the Duo Normand two-man team time trial with Garmin-Cervelo's Johan Van Summeren. It was Dekker’s first win since 2008 and the clearest indication yet that he is beginning to find his feet in the pro ranks after serving a two-year ban for taking EPO. Still without a team for next year, he is still hoping that Garmin will opt to sign him.
Dekker came back to racing in August at the Tour of Portugal where he raced for Garmin’s under-23 feeder team, the Chipotle Development Team. He was forced out of the event with an injury but has since recorded two top-ten placings and today's win.
"I came back in international cycling at the Tour of Portugal, but had to pull out with a thigh-bone injury. I wanted to do everything good before that race, like a junior. I changed shoes, pedals, and that of course was not a good idea. After that things were not easy. The Vuelta of Mexico was cancelled and the team had no races anymore for me,” he told Cyclingnews.
Despite that setback, Garmin, and team boss Jonathan Vaughters, who has followed Dekker's career since well before his rehabilitation, wanted Dekker to demonstrate that he could race under clear circumstances since his ban, and more importantly, produce results. The American team boss has subjected Dekker to a number of physical tests and instructed him to work with WADA in the fight against doping.
“But in the meantime Jonathan and the rest of the Garmin team made clear to me that I had to show something special. They wanted to see me fight. Like, 'ok Thomas this is the situation, show you have guts and that you go for it..' It was a clear message. So I had to make a alternative program with pro races in Belgium and some time trials,” he told Cyclingnews.
“I feel that I am getting to a good level again. Last week in the Chrono Champenois I had a very good first part, but suffered in the second part. I noticed that I have been out of the sport for two years. In the end I finished 7th. Last Tuesday I was in a day long break in the Memorial Briek Schotte and finished 7th again. That gave me a lot of morale and energy. And today I win! It's an amazing feeling.”
Despite today’s win with Johan Van Summeren, Dekker isn’t resting on his laurels because despite his successes his future as a pro rider, let alone with Garmin or its development team, is far from secured. With a number of weeks until the season finished and the transfer market still open, Dekker is looking to use his form in the coming weeks.
“I think I am showing myself now to Jonathan and the team, off and on the bike. But I am not done yet. With one eye I focus on next year, and I know I need to race hard till the middle of October to progress. With the other eye I target more results. I am hungry.
“Even if Jonathan gave me a difficult mission, he was and is always there to support me. He came up with the combination Dekker-Van Summeren for Duo Normand. It reminds him of the duo he was with Jens Voigt, when they won Duo Normand in 2001. He challenged me and Johan to beat the time he had set with Voigt in 2001. And we did it! How cool is that?”