By Susan Westemeyer
Danilo Hondo enjoyed his season at Team Lamonta, but now it's time to move on. "It was fun to ride on this small team," he told Cyclingnews. "But in the end it's a question of finances. For me, it was just a stop-gap, that is clear, and it is imporant that I move on."
The former Gerolsteiner sprinter tested positive in 2005 for the somewhat obscure drug, carphedon, a stimulant that is said to be effective in increasing physical endurance and cold resistance.
He was subsequently sacked by the ProTour team and banned for two years. However, his trips though various courts have allowed him to start riding again this year - but only for a Continental team. In June, he admitted that he had worred as to whether he would be able to come back successfully after sitting out a year but said, "I think that all things considered, it was a great season."
"I am totally satisifed with the possibilities that I had," he said. "I had a lot of wins and was often on the podium." Those wins include an overall second in Franco-Belge, a stage win in the Sachsentour, and wins in such races as the Omloop van de Vlaamse Scheldeboorden, Wiedenscrüker Night and Stuttgart-Hohenheim. And in both the Friedensfahrt (Peace Race) and Circuito Montanes he won two stages and the sprinter's jersey.
Hondo said that he is moving on from Lamonta to the Professional Continental Team Tinkoff Credit Systems. "For the future, there are eight Russian riders, all of them young," he said. "It is clear that in order to have some success, the team also has to have an experienced rider, who can bring the victories in for the team. They approached me with great interest, and of course it was very interesting that they wanted to have me as a top sprinter."
The Tinkoff team has made headlines lately for the high-profile riders it claimed are interested in signing, such as Tyler Hamilton, Jan Ullrich or Ivan Basso. However, Hondo said despite the big aims, it is a serious team.
"The plans for this team are not dreams, but are going forward step by step." The team is interested in signing such riders, maintaining the optimistic outlook. "Especially since the (latest) development in Operacion Puerto shows that soon Ullrich will probably be acquitted."
Meanwhile, Hondo's own doping case continues to make its way through the Swiss judicial system. The injunction allowing him to ride was upheld in September. The next hearing will probably be in Feburary or March, he said. "Naturally I hope that in my own case the court will base its decision on the evidence presented to it and that the court's decision will fall in my favour."
His own experiences have given him a clear perspective on the riders named in Operacion Puerto. "I further hope that in Spain everything will finally be cleared up. Too much time has gone by with nothing happening. Either the riders should be allowed to ride again or the evidence against them needs to be presented so that they can be punished.
"You can't expect everyone to put up with this uncertainty for an extended period of time."