Eenkhoorn and Tolhoek train with LottoNL-Jumbo despite suspension

Riders begin reintegration with team ahead of return to racing

Halfway through a two-month suspension for using unauthorised sleep medication, Pascal Eenkhoorn and Antwan Tolhoek have been training with their LottoNL-Jumbo teammates at a camp in Spain this week.

Strava files posted by Eenkhoorn showed that he had been riding in Alicante on Tuesday morning, where the team has been training this week, despite having several weeks left on his suspension. 

Eenkhoorn and Tolhoek spent just two days in Alicante with their teammates, a team spokesperson told Cyclingnews. The pair arrived on Monday and completed a ride on Tuesday before leaving again. A team spokesperson told Cyclingnews that this did not mean that their suspension had ended early, but it was a chance for their teammates to speak to them about what had happened rather than on the eve of a race.

Tolhoek and Enkhoorn were sent home, along with sprinter Juan Jose Lobato, from a LottoNL-Jumbo training camp in December after they were found using sleep medication that was unauthorised by the team. According to reports, the alarm was raised when Eenkhoorn was found 'acting strangely' in the hotel lobby. Tolhoek was also found in a state of confusion while the team struggled to wake Lobato.

An ambulance was called for Lobato, who woke before it arrived, and the other two were driven to the hospital by directeur sportif Merijn Zeeman. The team said that the sleeping medication was not a banned substance but had not been provided by the team. Three days after the incident, the team decided to fire Lobato, who was due to ride the Tour Down Under earlier this month, after he reportedly distributed the medication.

Eenkhoorn and Tolhoek were handed two-month suspensions after being called to the team’s offices for a disciplinary talk. Tolhoek, 23, joined the team last year, while the 20-year-old Eenkhoorn is turning professional this season after signing a three-year contract with the team. Since the start of their suspension, the pair has spoken with people outside of the team about the incident. The team says that they are keen to help each rider move past it and learn how to behave as professional riders. 

The suspension will come to an end in mid-February, after which Eenkhoorn and Tolhoek will be allowed to race again. It is likely that they will stick to their original racing schedule from there so as not to cause too much disruption to their teammates. That would mean that Tolheok started his season at the Abu Dhabi Tour on February 21, while Eenkhoorn would make his professional debut at the Classics opening weekend riding at least on of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne.

Though he was fired, Lobato hasn't completely cut ties with the team. He has not attended any team events but Cyclingnews understands that he is receiving support from the team. Lobato endured some personal problems last season and the team says that it is assisting him in dealing with that, as well as giving him some financial support. He still also has access to his team issue Bianchi bike.

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