Thomas Dekker is trying a new approach to his preparation for the 2013 season, opting to train in Greece with a new personal trainer. The Garmin-Sharp rider has seen his plans to discuss his experience of doping blocked by the Dutch cycling federation, which had earlier agreed to help organise his visits to cycling clubs across the country.
Dekker and teammate Johan Vansummeren are in Kalamata, Greece, working with Vasilis Anastopoulos, the Greek national trainer and an official UCI certified coach. He is working with the two riders as personal coach, in co-operation with Garmin's training manager Adrie van Diemen, supervised by Garmin team manager Jonathan Vaughters.
“It's important to have a daily coach next to your team coach,” Dekker's manager Martijn Berkhout told Cyclingnews. “For the team training manager, it's difficult to provide one-on-one work, because he needs to look after all the 30 riders.”
Berkhout met Anastopoulos through the UCI trainer coaching course, and set up the contact. “They've been working together since October and so far everything is working out great. We prefer that coach and rider work one-on-one as much as possible, that's why Thomas is training in Greece instead of for example in Spain alone. The conditions are perfect in Greece, it's just that you need to know someone local from there.”
Dekker and Vansummeren are training together wit the Greek Continental team SP Tableware and the current World MTB Marathon champion, Periklis Ilias. Anastopoulos trains both the team and Ilias. Later this month the two will join their Garmin-Sharp teammates for a team training camp in Calpe, Spain.
Dekker will open his season at the Tour Mediterranean in early February, and take on the Tour du Haut Var, Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico, Criterium International and the Circuit de la Sarthe before targeting the Ardennes Classics. He will ride the Fleche Brabanconne, Amstel Gold Race, Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. From there, the 28-year-old moves to Italy and the GP Industria & Artigianato and the Giro della Toscana, before riding the Giro d'Italia for the first time since 2005.
Conflicts with the Dutch Federation
Dekker has served a two-year suspension for violations of the biological passport. Berkhout said Dekker's difficult past is behind him. “It is behind him now. The come back process with Garmin was his proof to show he wanted to change and come back different. That worked out and resulted in a new contract for 2013 and 2014."
“He supports the team and its philosophy in the fight against doping. Like every other member of the team, he is open to co-operate in any official investigation to help the future of cycling.”
However, recent headlines in the Dutch press have focused on his participation in an alleged blood doping scheme at Team Rabobank.
“It's logical that the Dutch newspapers focus on Thomas. He is the only one who confessed he was involved with doping, who served a two-year ban,” Berkhout said.
But it would better, he said, to “ask Thomas if he is ever asked to co-operate with any investigation or if any official federation of anti-doping authority asked him to explain his past. The answer is NO. Never! Thomas initiated a meeting with WADA by himself. And the UCI president Pat McQuaid was the only other person, as representative of a federation, who took the time to listen to Thomas. To give him advice, to discuss with him, how he could help cycling after he damaged cycling with his doping violations.”
Dekker had hoped to share his experiences with local riders in the Netherlands, in the hope of discouraging young riders from making the same mistakes he made. He had arranged with the Dutch federation to make a 'club tour'.
“During this club tour, Thomas would visit cycling clubs throughout Holland to tell them about his past, to start discussions on doping and youth development. Almost every cycling club in Holland made a request for joining the club tour. This had to take place during the 2012-2013 winter," Berkhout said.
“But after Jonathan Vaughters gave more insight on Dekker's doping past in the Dutch newspaper AD Sportwereld, the director of the federation sent us a mail that the federation no longer wanted to be associated with Thomas Dekker on anti-doping education!”
Berkhout decried the “hypocrisy” of the federation.
“He is the only one who is ready to explain and let young riders learn from his mistakes. He is still the only rider who served a ban, who came back clean and confessed his mistakes. So we ask ourselves, 'How hypocritical is the Dutch Cycling Federation and their battle against doping? How will they ever reach their members, make them understand things? with the ideal son-in-law?' No, with the son who made a big mistake and learned from it.”
Dekker regrets not being able to carry out the plan, “because it's one of the things he discussed with Mr. McQuaid. So for now he supports his team and focus on performing clean on a high level. Because that's for him the best advertising he can give to clean cycling,” Berkhout said.
And for the rest, “he is just very happy to be a cyclist, to be part of the Slipstream family, to compete clean and to build a career for the next 10 years.”