Spain’s Alejandro Valverde will contest the Tour Down Under after returning from a two-year doping ban.ADELAIDE – Controversial Spanish cyclist Alejandro Valverde will aim to make up for lost time when he returns from a doping ban at the Tour Down Under in South Australia.
The 31-year-old has been confirmed to head a strong squad for Spanish outfit Movistar in the race from January 15 to 22.
The former world No.1 and 2009 Tour of Spain winner has not raced since his two-year ban was confirmed by the Court of Arbitration in May 2010 after a lengthy legal process and backdated to the start of the year. Valverde was linked to the Operation Puerto doping scandal that rocked the 2006 Tour de France.
The Spaniard made his Tour Down Under debut in 2010 with the doping case hanging over his head and proved one of the stars of the race.
He had an epic duel with Australia’s world champion Cadel Evans, Slovakian Peter Sagan and Spanish teammate Luis Leon Sanchez near the end of the pivotal fifth stage at Willunga.
The quartet duelled on the Old Willunga Hill climb in some of the best racing in the tour’s 13-year history with Sanchez finishing third on the stage.
All Valverde’s 2010 results were wiped when his ban was confirmed, including a victory in the Tour de Romandie and a second place in the Paris-Nice stage race.
Willunga will feature a summit finish for the first time this month, which should play to Valverde’s strengths, and race director Mike Turtur rates the Movistar rider a chance to win the tour.
”The experience he had here when he last raced in 2010 will have him well placed to be a big threat to take out the overall win,” Turtur said.
”The Old Willunga Hill and Stirling finishes suit Valverde’s style of racing so we expect him to ride well.”
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