The long rumoured signing of Tyler Hamilton with Italy-based Tinkoff Credit Systems is now official. The 35 year-old American, back after a two-year doping suspension, will headline the professional continental team financed by Russian businessman Oleg Tinkoff.
Over 10 days ago it was speculated that Hamilton had in fact signed with Tinkoff when at Nevada for the Silverman Triathlon he responded, "Yes, I have signed with a team," during a pre-race press conference. On September 22, he finished his ban from cycling, which started in the fall of 2004 when he was sacked from Phonak for failing a blood doping test.
"I made a mistake and the price that I had to pay was very high," said Hamilton. Team General Manager Stefano Feltrin confirmed to Cyclingnews that a one-year agreement was made for the 2007 season. "Now I am ready to put myself back into competition. I passed excruciating long months and have come out on top thanks to the help of my family and my close friends. Now I am ready to for a new challenge and I want to thank Tinkoff Credit Systems for offering me this new opportunity."
The Tinkoff team will be under the control of current Team LPR Manager Omar Piscina. The 30 year-old Italian had hinted at signing a top rider in early November. "The team will be soon complete with three more members, of which will be one of top-level," he said then. The rider ended up being the reigning Olympic time trial champion.
"To reach an agreement with Tyler was very important," Piscina said this morning. "I want to say thanks to Tinkoff Credit Systems for the unquestioned support in signing the talented American. We are convinced that with Tyler the team can make a huge leap in quality. We know the past of Hamilton but we are confident that he deserves a second chance, like has happened with other cyclists in the past."
Hamilton is a product of two super-teams; staring his career in 1995, he spent many years at the side of Lance Armstrong in US Postal colours, present for the Texan's first three tours (1999 to 2001). In 2002 he transferred to the team of Bjarne Riis; CSC. While in CSC colours he finished second in the 2002 Giro d'Italia behind Paolo Savoldelli, with a micro-fracture of his rib bone, and in 2003 he recorded a monumental win in the Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
After 2003, Hamilton left the side of Riis to reinforce Phonak's line-up. During the following season he took his second Giro di Romandie win and won the Olympic time trial before testing positive for blood doping at the Vuelta a España, resulting in a two year ban.
This last summer Hamilton's name was linked to the Operación Puerto investigation when the Guardia Civil revealed two pages of faxed document allegedly detailing payments to Doctor Fuentes during the 2003 and 2004 seasons. The Guardia Civil even claimed to have recovered bags of the American's blood from Fuentes' offices.
But the investigation has reached a standstill in the hands of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), who have not made a decision regarding disciplinary hearings for Hamilton. The rider continued to maintain his firm stance, saying on his website, tylerhamilton.com, "What I do know is that these allegations are hurtful and false. It is not clear to me who is translating and alleging these things."
Hamilton is now ready to put the past behind him and turn a new page in his career. According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, the rider who used to base himself in Girona, Spain is considering a move to Calendasco, a town of 2,000 residents near Piacenza, where Tinkoff has a headquarters.
With the signing of Tyler Hamilton it is highly likely the team will receive an invitation to compete in the Giro d'Italia, a race that Tyler almost won in 2002. Tinkoff is practically complete for the new season at 17 riders: Tyler Hamilton (USA), Elia Aggiano (Ita), Pavel Brutt (Rus), Ilya Chernetsky (Rus), Salvatore Commesso (Ita), Daniele Contrini (Ita), Danilo Hondo (Ger), Sergey Klimov (Rus), Mikhail Ignatyev (Rus), Ruggero Marzoli (Ita), Anton Mindlin (Rus), Evgeni Petrov (Rus), Ivan Rovny (Rus), Alexander Serov (Rus), Ricardo Serrano (Esp), Nikolay Trusov (Rus) and Steffen Weigold (Ger).
The team will have its first camp December 4 to 7 in Riccione, where they will be joined by Oleg Tinkov. The 37 year-old Russian, who raced as an amateur and made his fortune in the beer industry, will likely join the cyclists on their training rides.
Cyclingnews coverage of Tyler Hamilton's blood doping case
November 26, 2006 - Confusion over Hamilton 'admission'
November 24, 2006 - Hamilton confirmes 2007 contract with Tinkoff
November 14, 2006 - Hamilton signed with Tinkoff?
November 13, 2006 - Hamilton has signed
October 31, 2006 - USA Cycling CEO on Puerto developments
October 21, 2006 - UCI questions value of teams hiring riders under suspension cloud
September 15, 2006 - USA Cycling informed about Hamilton
September 2, 2006 - Hamilton's World's aspirations dashed
August 29, 2006 - McQuaid on Pevenage, Hamilton, testing
August 26, 2006 - Hamilton file to be studied soon
August 22, 2006 - Extensive doping alleged for Hamilton
August 21, 2006 - Hamilton's "doping diary" from 2003 published
July 3, 2006 - Ullrich, Basso risk four years - life-long ban for Hamilton?
June 28, 2006 - Hamilton to keep Olympic time-trial gold medal
June 26, 2006 - Hamilton and Ullrich linked to Operación Puerto