Italian racing with Androni Giocattoli after cocaine positive
Mattia Gavazzi (Androni Giocattoli) made his long awaited comeback from suspension on stage 1 of the Tour de San Luis, finishing 31st in the hectic sprint won by Mark Cavendish.
The Italian tested positive for cocaine after the prologue of the Settimana Lombarda on March 31, 2010. He won stage 2 of the race two days later but was suspend for two and a half years by the Italian National Anti-Doping Tribunal. He was originally handed a six-year ban but had it reduced after he co-operated with the investigation.
Unfortunately this wasn't Gavazzi's first brush with cocaine. He also tested positive for the drug when racing in the amateur ranks in 2004. That time he was given a 14-month suspension and ordered into a rehabilitation programme.
Now 29, Gavazzi has been given another chance by Androni Giocattoli manager Gianni Savio and is hoping to get his career back on track. In 2009, he was one of the hottest sprinters in the peloton, picking up 11 wins in a stellar season.
"Two and a half years was a long time but I respect the rules," Gavazzi told Cyclingnews before stage 2 of San Luis.
"When I decided to come back, I knew it wouldn't be easy. I've been out for a long time but I've worked really hard through the winter and last year I trained a lot with the team. In June, I went to Sestriere with the Venezuelan team and trained my heart out for my comeback."
A fully fit Gavazzi would have been a genuine contender for the pan-flat opening stage to Villa Mercedes. However, once Omega Pharma-Quick Step and Lampre-Merida began their duel on the front, Gavazzi found himself outfought and even out-thought - ring rusty from his time on the sidelines.
"I expected a little more from yesterday's stage if I'm honest, but that sort of performance is to be expected. I need to be patient and I need to wait," he told Cyclingnews.
"Physically I rode well. But it's been a long time since I've been in a sprint finale. Maybe I've lost some of my quick reactions, my 'colpo d'occhio' as we say in Italian, the type of split second reactions that a sprinter needs to make when he's racing at this level. The ability to see the small gaps."
"It's going to take me three or four races to get back my racing rhythm. I'll head to the Tour of the Med next. Savio has told me to just keep my head down, and keep working. He used to be a football player so he knows that there's not point talking big until you can prepare properly and then perform well. My boss seems happy so far though and he appreciates my hard work."
Savio's olive branch has given Gavazzi another chance in professional cycling.
"The time I was away was tough, really tough. Especially in that first year," he said.
"I didn't know if I was going to make it back. The second year things were a little better. I trained, and I knew I was coming back with this team. I had offers from other teams but I've know this team from 2009 and we've always had a good relationship so as soon as Savio called me, I snapped at the chance to sign for him."