Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Sharp) has some good and bad memories of the Giro d'Italia but he ended the 20th Grand Tour of his career and almost certainly his last ever Giro, with a smile on his face.
The American suffered through this year's race but he is finally serene after the details of his doping confession have come out and he has served his six-month ban. His affidavit revealed the details of his doping helped bring down Lance Armstrong and end the omerta about life at the US Postal Service team.
Vande Velde, like teammates Tom Danielson and Dave Zabriskie, revealed how he used EPO, testosterone and human growth hormone and gave damning evidence on the doping and bulling tactics of Armstrong team manager Johan Bruyneel and Dr. Michele Ferrari. USADA has given Armstrong a lifetime ban after he refused to cooperate with their investigation, while the disciplinary process of Bruyneel and Ferrari are still to reach a final verdict.
The Garmin-Sharp team has tried to protect the riders from probing questions, refusing several interview requests from Cyclingnews during the spring. However Vande Velde was happy to speak about the Giro d'Italia, his past problems, about Danilo Di Luca's EPO positive and doping problem that remain in professional cycling.
"I'm pleased to finish this Giro. You're always happy when you finish a Grand Tour, especially one like this one, given the circumstances. It's good to get it behind me and move on to the next one," he told Cyclingnews.
"Performance wise this has been one of my worst Grand Tours. I've never really been so unprepared for a Grand Tour in my life because of my hand and a lack of racing and things like that. It's been a rough Giro. I'm not proud of it. But I'm glad to be back racing. There's no other place I'd rather be right now. I'm finding my form and getting back to my former self. I know that after some rest I'll be and ready for the Tour de France."
Fellow American Levi Leipheimer was sacked by Omega Pharma-Quick Step when his confession to doping was revealed by USADA and has recently announced his retirement after failing to find a team.
Vande Velde was able to return to racing in March after his six-month ban because he had a contract with Jonathan Vaughters' Garmin-Sharp team. He wanted to end his career in the saddle, completing one last season in Europe.
"I wanted to come back and show myself. I didn't want to end things before I was ready to end it," he told Cyclingnews.
"I'm definitely ready to end it all at the end of this year, there's no doubt about that. But I wanted to have one last season."
Lead by example
Vande Velde has been criticised for not revealing details of his doping earlier and some consider his six-month ban too short. He raced on in silence, earning a good salary for several years but is adamant that he did the right thing.
"I'm not going defend myself either way," Vande Velde told Cyclingnews.
"I had to give up the Olympic Games, the world championships, I had six months with no salary. It's not like they gave me a choice. It wasn't my idea.
"The fact of the matter is that I did speak. I did say 100% the truth. And if more people did the same, I think the sport would be in a better place.
"At Garmin-Sharp we never speak about doping unless I do an interview like this one. It's never even a thought in my mind. I haven’t spoken out but how I am. I prefer to lead my example. I think that's what I've always done at Garmin-Sharp and that's how I think I can best contribute to it all."
Like many people on the inside of professional cycling, Vande Velde is convinced the sport has changed dramatically in recent years.
"We're talking about things that happened a long time ago. Unfortunately there's always going to be somebody, pushing the envelope. But now I think a lot of teams are like our team in regards to doping."
Sad for Di Luca
When asked Danilo Di Luca's positive test for EPO, Vande Velde seems genuinely sad for the Italian rider, who is facing his third and probably life-time ban.
"I find it sad. It's unbelievable. You can never really fathom it out," he said.
"It's overshadowed the race and what Nibali has done. I know it's cliché but it shows the controls are working. It's hard to hide and the people who are doing it, are splitting hairs and for what? Hopefully it's being beat into their thick skulls that it's not the way to go anymore."
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