Valverde starts 'new era'

Spanish cyclist will make his comeback from a two-year doping ban at the Tour Down Under.

    Valverde was banned shortly after 2010's Tour Down Under [GALLO/GETTY]

    Spanish cyclist Alejandro Valverde is looking forward to "starting a new era'' with his team Movistar after completing a two-year doping ban.

    "I am ready to start again from scratch,'' Valverde said at his official presentation with Movistar on Wednesday.

    "We are beginning a new era with Movistar, which has given me the chance to compete with the best in cycling.''

    The 31-year-old Valverde was stripped of his No. 1 world ranking and banned for two years from January 2010 after being implicated in Operation Puerto, a blood-doping ring in Spain involving more than 50 riders.

    DNA evidence

    While he never tested positive for a banned drug, Valverde was reportedly linked to the doping ring by DNA evidence seized in police raids in 2006.

    Valverde said that he is not worried about the reception awaiting him from the public and peloton.

    "It isn't something that concerns me. I was under scrutiny for a long time, but now I am calm because I have complied with everything they wanted,'' he said.

    "Before, I raced in France and in many other places and I was always loved by fans and my fellow riders.''

    Valverde's first race back will be Australia's Tour Down Under from January 22-25, the opening event of cycling's 2012 ProTour.

    "I am a little afraid to see how I will respond by the end of race,'' said Valverde, the 2009 Spanish Vuelta winner.

    "If my stamina is lacking, I will recover it little by little, but at least I will arrive well rested.''

    Valverde will lead a Movistar team that also recently signed 2011 Vuelta winner Juan Jose Cobo.

    SOURCE: AP


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