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Cobo defends Vuelta victory against insinuations

2011 Vuelta a España, stage 20, Juan Jose Cobo
Juanjo Cobo (Geox-TMC) says he hopes that his victory in the Vuelta a España will erase doubts associated with his reputation dating back to the scandal-plagued 2008 Tour de France.

During that ill-fated Tour, Cobo was teammates with Riccardo Ricco and Leonardo Piepoli, two riders who tested positive for CERA and forced the humiliating exit of the Saunier Duval team.

Cobo admitted that some look at him with suspicion, especially when he finished second to Piepoli up Hautacam and was later awarded the stage victory, but told the Spanish daily MARCA that he did nothing wrong then or now.

“I know I have an ‘X’ next to my name since then,” Cobo told MARCA referring to the 2008 Tour. “(I know) that some foreign teams look at me badly, but that was the mistake of two people. I passed the same controls that they did (Ricco and Piepoli) and I didn’t have any problems. But they put us all in the same basket. I’ve demonstrated in this Vuelta where I can be.”

Cobo’s surprise victory raised a few eyebrows, but he was adamant that his Vuelta victory is beyond the shadow of a doubt.

“I have passed more controls than in the past two years. That’s why I hope people look at me differently,” Cobo said. “It’s no secret (the number of controls during the Vuelta). Four blood and nine urine.”

Cobo admitted that his Vuelta victory was a surprise even to him, but said it was a personal confirmation of what he always believed was his potential.

“I surprised myself. The key to a grand tour is to always be consistent, something that I’ve never been able to do until now. I always had a bad day,” Cobo continued. “I showed in the 2007 Tour and in the 2009 Vuelta that I could be up there with the best climbers.”

Cobo said his future remains up in the air and suggested that he is receiving interest from other teams following his Vuelta win.

“I don’t know which team I will ride for next year,” he said. “I’ve always liked the Tour de France. I’ve ridden it twice and despite the bad experience we had (in 2008), I would like to return. I believe I can finish between fifth and eighth at the Tour.”

On the controversial time bonuses which decided the final outcome, Cobo said he simply raced with the conditions that were present in the race.

“The time bonuses were equal for everyone, no?” he said. “I really don’t like them and would take them away, but they were there.”

Finish-line and intermediate bonuses gave Cobo his 13-second victory. Without them, runner-up Chris Froome would have been 19 seconds faster than Cobo into Madrid.

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