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Astarloza returns after two-year ban

Mikel Astarloza returned to competition on Wednesday's opening stage of the Tour of Burgos, having completed a two-year ban after testing positive for EPO prior to the 2009 Tour de France, where he won a stage.

As was the case before his ban, the 31-year-old Basque will be racing in Euskaltel-Euskadi colours. The team have confirmed that he has also signed a one-year deal with them through to the end of 2012.

Euskaltel indicated earlier this year that they were set to re-sign Astarloza, and there had been suggestions that he would appear for them almost as soon as his ban ended on June 26. However, team manager Igor González de Galdeano has held him back, preferring to let him sharpen his fitness by training rather than racing.

Astarloza lined up with a strong Euskaltel team in Burgos, with Tour stage winner Samuel Sánchez and Giro stage winners Igor Antón and Mikel Nieve all set to start. However, González de Galdeano played down suggestions that Astarloza might feature in the team’s Vuelta a España line-up in two weeks.

“After two years without competing that would be rushing things,” he told Biciciclismo. “We will see, but we’ve got an alternative calendar prepared for him.”

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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).