Luca Paolini said last month that he had abandoned any hope of returning to the professional peloton after serving an 18-month ban for cocaine. According to Gazzetta della Sport, Paolini has found himself a ride for this year but it comes with an entirely different goal.
The Italian newspaper says that Paolini has signed with Italian manufacturer Torpado, which runs a mountain bike team. Paolini will focus on the endurance side, with a view to racing at the Marathon World Championships in Singen, Germany, at the end of June.
"I was ready to race again among the pros, but after the ban I was wanting for quality proposals,” said Paolini. "I had also looked for tour operators, some of the offers were interesting. Torpado called me, I was pleased."
“It was an occasion to which I could not say no. I will finish my career with a number on my jersey. The goal is the Marathon World Championships in mountain biking in June in Germany. The path is not impossible for us road racers. I grew up with BMX, MTB and I always used it to train.”
Paolini's road career was abruptly brought to a halt when he tested positive for cocaine during the 2015 Tour de France. He was immediately suspended by his team and then later handed an 18-month suspension. Paolini admitted to having endured an addiction to the narcotic as well as sleeping tablets. He spent time in a clinic to kick the addiction and maintained hope that he would be able to return to racing at the highest level.
The 40-year-old said last month that he had exhausted all possibilities and had all but given up on returning to the professional ranks.
Former rider Paolo Bettini, who was Paolini's teammate at Mapei-Quick-Step, will coach him while Mirko Celestino, who took silver in the 2011 Marathon World Championships will help him hone his off-road skills. Paolini says that they will have to get down to business if he hopes to get himself ready in time.
"Mirko is a technician, there can no longer be friendships. He told me that there are no foreclosures. I will try to be ready [for it]."