Björn Leukemans found success in his first stage race of the season, scoring a win on Saturday on the Etoile de Bessèges fourth stage in Allègre-les-Fumades. The Belgian is debuting with his new Vacansoleil team after more than a year spent fighting doping charges. Leukemans out-sprinted Thomas Voeckler (Bbox-Bouygues Telecom) for the stage while the Frenchman took the overall lead in the race.
For Leukemans, the stage was an important victory after many months of misery. He tested positive in October, 2007 for testosterone, but argued that the result was due to a prescription given to him by his team doctor. After an initial two-year ban which would have lasted until February 2010, Leukemans' ban was shortened to six months.
"This is indescribable," Leukemans said to sporza.be. "I'm going to enjoy this very much." The win was vindication for both Leukemans and the Vacansoleil team which signed him in spite of the doping case. "I answered with the pedals. That was the only way."
Now that he is racing again, Leukemans has a deeper appreciation for the sport. "I enjoy it a lot more, I look at it completely different than before. I just really enjoy the bike, even if it rains all day, as it did here on Friday."