LEON, Spain (VN) — Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins says Vuelta a España race leader Juanjo Cobo deserves a benefit of the doubt against insinuations that the Geox-TMC rider’s Angliru performance might appear too good to believe.
“We’re all cyclists. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty. While we’re in the peloton, they’re just like us,” Wiggins said. “We’re all racers and we race against each other. Other people’s opinions might be different on that, but that’s not certainly our opinion. As far as we’re concerned, Cobo is like us and he’s racing. And he deserves to be where he’s at.”
When VeloNews asked Wiggins on Monday what he thought of Cobo’s sudden rise to form, coming out of the same team structure that delivered the 2008 doping scandals of Riccardo Riccò and Leonardo Piepoli, Wiggins was quick to frame his comments with a strong qualifier.
“Those are your words, not mine,” Wiggins said. “I will remind you that they were your words and not mine, and that they do not get taken out of context.”
Cobo’s tremendous performances at Farrapona and Angliru that propelled him into the Vuelta lead have raised more than a few eyebrows, especially for a rider who was on the verge of retirement just a few months ago.
The 30-year-old Cobo has never tested positive during his career and the team has not been involved in another major doping scandal since its humiliating departure from the 2008 Tour.
Cobo was part of the Saunier Duval team that left the 2008 Tour de France in disgrace after Ricco tested positive for CERA.
Right or wrong, that legacy continues to haunt the squad and anyone who was on it.
Piepoli later tested positive for the same blood booster and saw his victory at Hautacam stripped. Cobo had finished second to Piepoli and the record books name Cobo as the stage winner that day.
Saunier Duval left as sponsor in the wake of the scandal and the team rode as Scott-American Beef, Fuji-Servetto and Footon-Servetto until Geox arrived as title sponsor for 2011.
Wiggins, who is outspoken in his stance for clean racing, said that fans and racers alike have to believe that ramped up anti-doping controls are doing the job.
“You have 100 percent faith in the tests that are out there, in the governing bodies,” he said. “All we can control is what we do at Team Sky. We live by our philosophy and we train by it every day. Both of us work (Chris Froome) and sacrifice to get where we are. It’s not something we go out there each day thinking about.”
Wiggins also was quick to acknowledge that Cobo was the strongest man up the Angliru.
“We really had it handed to us by Cobo. He really took the race apart (Sunday) single-handedly. There was nothing anyone could do about it. It was even worse because we knew he was going to do that,” Wiggins said.
“As cyclists, it’s all about winning. We’ve (he and Froome) both been out there last five or six days trying to win this bike race. There’s always an element of disappointment and deflation after losing the race (Sunday).”