Juan Jose Lobato has been given the chance to rescue his cycling career after signing an agreement with Italian squad Nippo Vini Fantini. The Spaniard was fired from LottoNL-Jumbo in December after taking sleep medication at a training camp without the team's knowledge. Two other riders Antwan Tolhoek and Pascal Eenkhoorn, who also took the Noctamid and Stilnox, were suspended by the team but kept on.
Lobato, described by his new team as the 'perfect alter-ego of the leader Marco Canola' joins for the remainder of the season with the option of a second year also on the table.
In a press release issued by Nippo-Vini Fantini, general manager Francesco Pelosi outlined why the team had taken Lobato on-board. He also explained some of the reasons why Lobato had taken the medication.
"I’m very proud and happy that another winning rider, with WorldTour experience decides to join our important project," Pelosi said. "Juan Jose will have [a] very important role supporting our leader in the Monuments races and in the stage races. I know very well the reason why he consensually rescinded his contract with his previous team, and after I received reassurance from his previous team about the rider's behavior during 2017, which was the hardest year of his career, Juan has been very professional during the whole season, [so] we decided to offer to him a second chance.
"We have verified the reason behind the rider's motivation to be back in competitions, after a very difficult year from a personal point of view (in 2017 he separated from his wife just after his son was born, and in the same year a close relative, and mentor in cycling, died). We have decided to accept this challenge as a team, in line with the #OrangeBlue moral and ethic code.
"We don't want to exclude a rider in good faith and we want to give a second chance to those whom deserve it. Juan Jose now fully understands how it works inside a team that has fundamental ethical rules and he will not repeat similar mistakes. Now, he just needs a brand new opportunity and with this jersey he just wants to be back in his great career."
Lobato, 29, spent three years at Movistar before signing a two-year deal with LottoNL-Jumbo at the start of 2017. His role at his new Italian squad will be the support the squad's team leaders. He will undoubtedly have his own chances of success, having gained a reputation as a decent sprinter. The team already have Damiano Cunego, Marco Canola, Ivan Santaromita, Simone Ponzi and Alan Marangoni on their roster.
"Aware of his mistake and regretful for the fact, after his open excuse letter, received many offers from international teams. Juan, ready to be back to racing, decided to accept the Nippo-Vini Fantini Europa Ovini proposal to launch a strong message to all his fans, about his desire of competing in respect of the strong ethical rules that the team have, accepting the second big chance given to him by the Italian-Japanese team," the team said.