South African Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEdge) made the most of his first race back after being exonerated of a positive test for Probenecid, winning the Tour of Alberta on Sunday by one second from previous leader Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Shimano).
Impey started the day in third, nine seconds behind Dumoulin, but a 10-second time bonus for the stage win lifted him past the 23-year-old Dutch rider. Impey was a late addition to the Alberta roster, with Orica adding him when the UCI lifted his ban just days before the race started in Calgary.
"It's just really nice to pay back the team for all the faith they've had in me," he told Cyclingnews following the final stage in Edmonton. "It was a testing time for everyone. For the family, for myself. We really kept believing that I'd have a chance to come back and everything would be cleared up. So I just kept working hard. It was hard to do that, but, yeah, to finally do this is massive for me. It's a huge relief, and I'm really, really excited."
Impey's positive test was announced in June, and he was immediately taken off Orica's roster. But he claimed the banned diuretic entered his system through contaminated gelatine capsules that he had purchased from a pharmacy. Impey was able to prove that the pharmacist who issued him the capsules had the Probenecid on his hands from dealing with a prior customer.
Once he was cleared, Orica immediately put him back into action at the Canadian race. Impey started the Tour of Alberta with an 11th-place finish in the prologue, losing 23 seconds to Dumoulin over 4km. But he slowly gained time back throughout the week, piling up 24 seconds in time bonuses via intermediate sprints and Sunday's finish.
"I never thought it would go this way," he said. "I thought I'd come to Alberta just thinking that I'd find out where I'm at. You know the first day I thought I'd go for the sprint to see how we were going, and then finally the last day was really a course that suited me. We put all our eggs in one basket for the last day, and you know as long as you don't gamble, you never win. So we gambled on the finish, and, yep, it's just fantastic."
Impey became the first African rider to wear the yellow jersey at the Tour de France last year. He held the jersey for two days. The 29-year-old won stage 3 of the Bayern Rundfahrt in May and earlier in the year had defended his South African national time trial title, after which he returned the positive test. His last race before Alberta was the Critérium du Dauphiné, which ended June 15.
Now Impey is looking forward to representing South Africa at the upcoming UCI World Championships in Ponferrada, Spain, at the end of the month on a classics-style course that could suit his talents.
"I think it's a course that suits me," he said. "I would have liked to have done a little bit more racing before. This is a good step, but I think I may be lacking the top, you know the real distance at the end. But that being said, I've been working pretty hard, so I guess we'll know when we get there."