News that the UCI suspended Kristijan Durasek after the 31-year-old was caught up in the Austrian police investigation into a doping ring hit the UAE Team Emirates at the Tour of California hard, although activity around the team bus on Wednesday morning at the start of stage 4 in Laguna Seca went on as normal.
The team has confirmed that they will continue to race despite Durasek’s suspension. Durasek is under investigation for 'use of prohibited method' in 2017. He's the sixth cyclist caught up in the scandal, with Stefan Denifl and Georg Preidler emerging as the first names involved earlier this year.
"Obviously it affects our tactics today," said UAE Team Emirates director Neil Stephens. "Kristijan was here doing a good role for the team. Now he’s been suspended by the UCI and suspended by the team, so he’s got to go home and get that sorted out, so we’ll just go on with our business here."
Asked how the team in California was taking the news, he said it has had an obvious affect.
"It’s not the sort of news that we wanted to have, and it’s affected us immediately with the loss of a teammate," Stephens said. "If there’s a doubt about any rider or any staff member, then we’ve got to get it sorted out.
"We’re one man down, but it’s the same as those guys who crashed out yesterday. It puts us in the same position. You’re a man down, but you’ve got to readjust and move ahead."
Stephens has been around cycling many years, riding as a pro for 11 years with teams such as O.N.C.E. and Festina before retiring. He was caught up in the Festina affair at the 1998 Tour de France. He has said that he thought he was taking vitamins intravenously. Asked if he was surprised by Wednesday’s news, Stephen’s said it didn’t matter how he felt about it personally.
"It’s obviously a big blow to the team," he said. "Any sort of adverse news like that obviously affects us. It’s not positive for the team, it’s not positive for the riders and it’s not positive for the world of cycling, so we’re just moving on.”
Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake before studying English and journalism at the University of Oregon. He has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon.
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