Di Luca set to ride for free with one year Katusha deal

Danilo Di Luca has signed a one-year contract with Team Katusha but will not draw a salary from the Russian-based team, Gazzetta dello Sport has reported. Team manager Andre Tchmil says the Italian will be able to seek his own chances in the Vuelta a Espana.

Di Luca tested positive for EPO-CERA twice during the 2009 Giro d'Italia, in which he had finished second. He was given a two-year ban but this was reduced to nine months after he co-operated with Italian police and gave details of doping programme.

He had earlier been suspended for three months during the off season in 2007-2008 for his involvement in the Italian Oil for Drugs doping case.

“I am a new man,” the 35-year-old proclaimed. “Astana wanted me too, but the Katusha project is the right one.”

He will not be paid by the team. “I won't get a wage. Tchmil and I have set up a premium system," he confirmed.

Di Luca will ride in support of team captain Joaquin Rodriguez at the Giro d'Italia, according to Tchmil, “In the Vuelta he will have his own chances.”

"I can’t deny that I made an indecent proposal to Di Luca," Tchmil said.  "But life is hard and sometimes you’ve got to know when to help people. He told me ‘I’m a new man’ and I told him that I’d take him if he rode for free. I told him ‘If you’ve got talent, prove it. I’m counting on your honesty and your word.’”

Tchmil told Gazzetta he was touched when he read the story of how Di Luca was convinced to talk about his doping to a group of school children by Italian priest Don Marco. He rang him and they started to talk.

“We take the fight against doping very seriously and whoever races for us has to agree to pay a fine equal to five years salary if they test positive. But the fight against doping is not a fight against people," Tchmil claimed.

"I’ve realised that Di Luca wants to make a real comeback. He’s not coming back for the money but because he loves this sport. He’s been in a tunnel but now he’s seeing the world from the other side. Today I’ll go back with Di Luca and don Marco to Possagno and sign his contract in front of the school children. Danolo will also have a social role to play with us, explaining that cycling is about sacrifice and nor about the whispers that lead you to making mistakes."

Di Luca’s second coming will begin in earnest on Wednesday when he joins Katusha at their training camp in Calpe, Spain.

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