La Gazzetta dello Sport has linked Riccardo Riccò (Ceramica Flaminia) with a mid-season switch to lead the Quick Step team at the Vuelta a España. The self-styled “Cobra” returned to racing in March of this year after a two-year doping ban. He tested positive for CERA in 2008 after being targeted for testing by the French Anti-Doping Agency.
The controversial Riccò has been frustrated this season by a lack of opportunities to race at the highest level. His Flaminia team was overlooked for the two biggest races of the Italian calendar, Milan-San Remo and the Giro d’Italia. Nonetheless, Riccò offered remarkable performances at the Settimana Lombarda and Giro del Trentino, winning stages in each event.
According to the Gazzetta, Riccò will meet with his current team in order to discuss the possibility of a release from his contract in order to ride the Vuelta for Quick Step. The Belgian team have long been on the search for a leader for the general classification in the major tours. This latest foray into the transfer market is an echo of 2006, when Patrick Lefévère signed José Rujano mid-season to lead Quick Step at the Tour de France, albeit without any significant impact.
However, French website Cyclismag reports that Astana are also monitoring Riccò’s status, viewing him as a possible replacement for Alberto Contador should the Spaniard leave this winter, with Quick Step mooted as one of his possible destinations.
Whatever the eventual outcome of this particular transfer carousel, it seems apparent that less than two years after leaving the sport’s biggest event in disgrace, Riccò has returned to become one of its more valuable commodities.