It didn’t take long for Danilo Di Luca to find a ride.
Back from his ban for CERA, shortened by nine months after he cooperated with Italian officials about his doping practices, Di Luca will ride this season for free with Katusha.
VeloNews confirmed Monday with team officials a report by La Gazzetta dello Sport that the 35-year-old Italian will join the Russian-backed outfit and will not receive a salary directly from the team.
“He will be presented with the rest of the team on January 26 in Moscow,” Katusha team spokesman Andrea Agostino told VeloNews. “His first race will be the Mallorca Challenge and we expect he races the Giro.”
Di Luca had a long history of run-ins with anti-doping officials and was busted with CERA and disqualified from the 2009 Giro d’Italia, where he finished runner-up to Denis Menchov. He was banned for two years, but Italian officials later reduced it by nine months and seven days after he reportedly divulged information about where and how he procured his dope. He was cleared to race in October, 2010.
Di Luca, known as “the Killer,” vows he’s a changed man and says he will not return to his doping past.
According to La Gazzetta, Di Luca will sign a contract with Katusha during a presentation in front of some 500 students today in Possagno, Italy, and join his new Katusha teammates at a training camp in Calpe, Spain, this week. Di Luca also said he was close to joining Astana, now managed by his former Saeco director, Giuseppe Martinelli.
Agostino confirmed that Di Luca will debut at the Mallorca Challenge in Spain in early February and race all the major Ardennes classics, including Amstel Gold Race (which he won in 2005), Flèche Wallonne (which he won in 2005) and Liège-Bastogne-Liège (a winner in 2007). Di Luca will later race the Giro and take aim at the Vuelta a España in September.
Katusha team manager Andrei Tchmil said he believes Di Luca deserves a second chance.
“We ought to be capable of helping people. He told me he’s a new man. And I told him, ‘we’ll take you with one condition, that it doesn’t cost us anything,’” Tchmil told La Gazzetta. “He will help (Joaquim) Rodríguez in the Giro and later he’ll have the opportunity to demonstrate his worth, he’ll go to the Vuelta to win. I confide in his honesty and his word.”