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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Luca Paolini, instead of racing again after a suspension for cocaine use, will manage an historic coffee shop along the shores of Lake Como.
Paolini was kicked out of the 2015 Tour de France after anti-doping tests showed he had used cocaine. The UCI issued him an 18-month ban that ended January 10.
“I trained hard, I was back in form,” Paolini, who turned 40 Tuesday, told La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.
“I found closed doors. At team Astana, Vinokourov told me that with the ban that I had, he could not hire me. Coming from him that made me laugh.
“I would’ve liked to race with Bahrain, but the Arab culture is such that they don’t accept the minimum error when it comes to alcohol and drugs.”
The Italian worked for years in the service of leaders. He last rode for Katusha, where he helped Joaquím Rodríguez and Alexander Kristoff win. Given his space, Paolini won a stage in the 2013 Giro d’Italia, the 2013 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, and the 2015 Gent-Wevelgem.
Paolini’s idea was to have one last act before bowing out. He gave himself until Christmas, but he was unable to secure a contract.
“Nothing happened. I remained bitter,” he added. “I know that I did harm to cycling, but first, I had given so much. Now I’m turning the page. This is a new start for me, a gift for my next 40 years.”
The gift is Caffè Monti, in the heart of Como and across the street from the famous lake. In recent years, the Il Lombardia finished in front of the historic location. Paolini bought the bar and re-opened it with three partners.
He wants to buy other historic business and open them in the area. He said he may tie them to tourism and cycling.
“Cycling remains in my life,” he added. “It’s just that I will no longer take part in competitive cycling.”
The doping positive from the Tour de France nearly ruined Paolini’s life.
Officials kicked him out of the Tour on July 10 for a positive cocaine reading after the cobbled fourth stage to Cambrai.
Paolini said it was technically an out-of-competition positive, which would not bring a ban, because he used cocaine at a low moment during a training camp in June. He later revealed how he struggled with an addiction to sleeping medicine Benzodiazepine and caffeine.
“My family played an important part in helping me resolve the problem,” Paolini explained.
“Maybe the most difficult situation was with my daughter, who is 16 now. You feel like shit, your parents are supposed to be examples and not having such problems. I’m lucky, she’s smart and understands so much. She helped me.”