Currently in Argentina ahead of the Tour de San Luis, Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) has hailed Alejandro Valverde’s winning return to the peloton after suspension for his implication in Operacion Puerto.
Though news of the investigation first broke ahead of the 2006 Tour de France, Valverde was not suspended until May 2010. Although DNA testing matched him to blood bags seized from Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, Valverde recently claimed that he “didn’t do anything wrong.” He won stage 5 of the Tour Down Under on Saturday.
“I’m really glad for him,” Contador told Marca. “He’s a star and that’s the first of many wins he’ll get this year.”
The previous day, Oscar Freire (Katusha) had taken stage victory at the Tour Down Under, marking a strong start to the season from Spanish riders. “They both have incredible quality,” Contador said.
For his part, Contador is still awaiting a final verdict from the Court of Arbitration of Sport on his positive test for clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour de France. Although controversially cleared to race by the Spanish Federation in February of last year, the UCI and WADA appealed the matter to CAS.
After a series of postponements, the hearing finally took place in late November, but the verdict – which was initially anticipated in early January – is now expected at the end of the month.
In the meantime, Contador is free to race at the Tour de San Luis, which runs from January 23 to 29. Among the riders joining Contador in Argentina are Levi Leipheimer, Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Neri-Selle Italia) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale).