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LEON, Spain (VN) — David Zabriskie, Christian Vande Velde and Tom Danielson are hoping the speed and chaos of the peloton make for a smoother ride than the road they’ve ridden for the past several months.
The three Garmin-Sharp riders return to racing Monday at the Volta a Catalunya following the tumult and controversy of their role in the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s case against Lance Armstrong.
All three provided key testimony that helped peel back the lid on doping practices at the U.S. Postal Service team during the Armstrong era.
In exchange for their cooperation, the threesome received reduced, six-month bans that ended earlier this month. Over the weekend, Garmin discreetly added their names to its roster for this week’s WorldTour race across the Catalunya region of Spain.
What kind of reception they receive remains to be seen. VeloNews could not reach Vande Velde for comment, but in an interview with ESPN.com, he said he is optimistic.
“If I’m received negatively, that’s just part of omerta, isn’t it?” he told Bonnie Ford. “It finally dawned on me that I really enjoy this, and I’m really thankful I have my health and have the opportunity to race at the highest level cycling has to offer.”
The Catalan tour is over home roads of sorts for the three, who have their European base in Girona, which hosts the second of seven stages.
None has raced since late August, when Zabriskie and Danielson rode in support of Vande Velde, who won the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado.
Weeks later, the USADA bomb dropped, and their lives changed forever.
While Armstrong has since publicly admitted he doped to achieve his now-stripped Tour de France victories, the sport continues to roil from the aftershocks.
Zabriskie, Vande Velde and Danielson are the only remaining active riders among the 11 former Postal riders who testified in the headline-churning USADA case.
George Hincapie and Michael Barry both retired last fall, while Levi Leipheimer was dumped by Omega Pharma-Quick Step and has not found a new team.
Garmin, however, stood by the three riders after the news became public in October, issuing a statement that read, in part:
“The founding concepts of Slipstream Sports were put in place for riders committed to competing clean during their time at Slipstream Sports,” said a team statement. “While Christian, David, and Tom made their mistakes the better part of a decade ago, they also made the choice to stop. …
“Nothing can erase what has happened in cycling’s history, but we can learn from it. We can look back and say: never again. We can look forward to the crop of young athletes coming up not just on our team but also on other teams and have confidence that the future of the sport is here.”