Valjavec facing forced retirement

Tadej Valjavec may be forced into retirement after failing to secure a new professional contract for 2011, as the fallout from an abnormal biological passport result hangs over the rider’s head. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is yet to give its verdict on the International Cycling Union’s (UCI) appeal against the Slovenian anti-doping agency clearing Valjavec to ride, meaning team managers and sponsors won’t sign the Slovenian rider for next year.

“The Ag2r-La Mondiale team wanted to give me another contract but the sponsor said no,” Valjavec told Cyclingnews in Taipei. “My agent Alex Carera is still looking for a team for me but managers are scared to sign someone whose case isn’t totally closed. I’ve been cleared but the appeal by the UCI is still pending.”

Valjavec was suspended in May due to abnormal biological passport results, but was cleared to ride in early August by the Slovenian anti-doping agency. He returned to racing at Tour du Doubs and has been competing ever since, right through to the weekend’s hill climb near Sunmoon Lake, Taiwan, which was held in place of the washed-out Taiwan Cup.

“I spent three months without riding my bike at all in the middle of this year,” Valjavec said. “I went back to my normal level as I finished ninth in GP Prato in September.

“I was very motivated for the Tour of Lombardy but I got sick two days before,” he added. “I threw up all night after the Giro del Piemonte. I didn’t eat at all the day before the Tour of Lombardy. I didn’t know if I was even able to start and I raced anyway but after 200 kilometres I was done.”

His unlucky year continued with the cancellation of the Taiwan Cup due to a typhoon in the area. While he remained upbeat about the trip, Valjavec was bitter that it might be his last as a professional cyclist.

“I’m still happy to have made this trip with my family,” he said. “I didn’t imagine it was possible to ride a bike here up to 3000 metres of altitude. It’s a very nice island.”

If Valjavec is forced into retirement he plans to return to Slovenia and run his hotel in Poklyuka near Bled. “It’s on a plateau at 1300 metres and I’ve invested the money I made in cycling for all the rooms in this hotel to have hypobaric chambers,” he said. “It’s something I’ve done against doping, so it would be sad to stop cycling because of doping which I haven’t practised.

“Many times in the past I’ve said I wanted to quit cycling but I always realised after one week off how much I like this sport and I don’t want to quit this way,” he added.

The Ag2r-La Mondiale rider has made the top 20 at the Grand Tours on eight occasions, including an eighth place overall at the Giro d’Italia last year and ninth at the Tour de France two years ago. The 33-year-old has completed 11 seasons as a professional with the Fassa Bortolo, Phonak, Lampre and Ag2r-La Mondiale teams.

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