A year on from finishing runner-up to Vincenzo Nibali in the Vuelta a España and then finding out that he had tested positive for hydroxyethyl starch (HES) in an out-of-competition test done just prior to that race, Ezequiel Mosquera is the big absentee from this year's race. Having finished in the top five in each of the last four Vueltas, the Vacansoleil rider will be watching this edition at home as he continues to wait for a verdict to be delivered on that test.
Having confirmed his move to Vacansoleil in the middle of last year's Vuelta, former Xacobeo-Galicia team leader Mosquera has still to make his competitive debut in the Dutch team's colours, and says in an interview with Spanish newspaper Meta2Mil that he feels like he's been banned already.
"It's been 10 months since they informed me of the HES issue," said Mosquera. "Honestly, I think I've become a bit of a martyr, but at least it's forced me to spend some time thinking about my life away from the bike and to enjoy being at home with my wife and my baby girl, who was born this year."
He admits that he still has no idea when a verdict will be delivered in the case, and says that he has now stopped training as he doesn't not believe he will be able to compete this year at all. "It was in the hands of the UCI for seven months without them giving us any kind of reply. In the end they passed the issue onto the Spanish federation and that's where it's been for the last three months. I hope that it's resolved soon because I don't think there's really much to argue about. The reality is that more than 10 months have gone by now and I feel like I've been sanctioned."
The veteran climber is confident that he will be cleared, insisting he's done nothing wrong. "It's not a doping product, it doesn't improve performance and it doesn't work as a masking product for EPO, as has been stated over and over again," he says. "My samples were all opened and analysed in Madrid and then, without my permission, were set to Germany's best laboratory to be analysed there for a second time. And they didn't find EPO - simply because there isn't any."
Despite Vacansoleil's insistence on not allowing the Spaniard to compete until a resolution has been reached in the case, Mosquera refuses to criticise his team, saying he totally understands their dilemma. "The position the team has been put in is not an easy one. And I will never say a bad word about Vacansoleil. They have decided that they don't want me to race until there is a clear resolution to all this, and I've got no alternative but to accept that."
Mosquera says that he is particularly disappointed at missing the Vuelta because he is now lighter than he has ever been and believes that he would have extremely competitive based on his level of form at a recent altitude training with Geox's David Blanco, who subsequently finished 14th in the Vuelta a Burgos.