Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador made his comeback from a two-year doping ban during the first stage of the Tour of Benelux on Monday.
The week-long Tour of the Low Countries — known officially as the Eneco Tour — began on Monday, the very day that Contador’s ban expired.
“I’m happy to be back,” said Contador, who was banned for testing positive for the anabolic steroid clenbuterol at the 2010 Tour de France.
Contador had blamed his positive test on a contaminated steak that he ate during that year’s Tour, one of three editions of the race that he won. He was stripped of his 2010 Tour win and the ban ruled him out of this year’s Olympics.
“I’ve put a difficult time behind me. Fortunately I’ve always been able to count on my family and friends,” the Spaniard said. “What has marked me is the powerlessness that I faced with the decisionmakers.
“Tests are necessary, but the loopholes in the rules need to be filled. I’m not looking for revenge — being back on my bicycle is my only desire. I want to feel happy again as a rider,” he said.
Germany’s Marcel Kittel won the first stage of the race between Waalwijk and Middelburg in the southern Netherlands after a sprint finish ahead of France’s Arnaud Demare and American Taylor Phinney.
A number of big-name sprinters were caught up in a crash that hit the peleton with 2km to go.