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Juanjo Cobo, the Spanish rider who beat Chris Froome in the 2011 Vuelta a España, found a lifeline for the 2014 season with a third-division Turkish team that’s seen its past two winners of the Tour of Turkey test positive for EPO.
The 32-year-old was looking at retirement after Movistar did not renew his contract after two lackluster seasons at the World Tour. With no other major teams showing interest, Cobo has joined continental-level team, Torku Sekerspor.
Cobo hasn’t won a race since the 2011 Vuelta, when he held off a late challenge from Froome, who has since emerged as the most dominant stage race rider of the current generation.
Speaking to the Spanish website Biciciclismo, Cobo said he hopes to return to a top-level team in 2015.
“The circumstances were not favorable after my two seasons with Movistar and how things are now in cycling,” he told Biciciclismo. “If I can return to the top level all depends on me; to do things the right way, to be concentrated, to enjoy the bike…Next year I will be 34. At the end of the season we’ll see, to see if I am at a good enough level to ride for another team, to stay here, or to give it up.”
Cobo has been one of the most inconsistent riders in the peloton, winning the 2007 Vuelta al País Vasco, then he all but disappeared, only to come back to beat back Froome and Bradley Wiggins (Sky) at the 2011 Vuelta.
In two seasons at Movistar, he did not win a race, and did not start this year’s Vuelta. Disappointed with his performance, Movistar opted not to extend his contract.
Cobo will be joined by former Saunier Duval teammate David de la Fuente at the Turkish team.
The team has earned a rather infamous reputation for itself, however, winning the past two editions of the Tour of Turkey, only to see its winners test positive for EPO.
In 2012, Bulgaria veteran Ivailo Gabrovski rode away from the field in a climbing stage in stage 3 to win the overall, only to test positive for EPO weeks later.
The same thing happened again this year with Mustafa Sayar, who won the overall but later tested positive for EPO.