This Vuelta victory bothers me for two reasons. The first is the good old doping story, Operacion Puerto (click here for the background information), and the second relates to the increasingly boring style of racing in the grand tours (which I will touch upon in another post).
The first part of the story, Operacion Puerto, is simple. A bunch of athletes, ranging from soccer players, to tennis stars and obviously to pro cyclists, were apparently (or should I say allegedly) involved in a blood doping ring run by a Spanish doctor, Eufemio Fuentes. Over the course of a long investigation that was poorly handled (rumor has to protect some of the big stars involved), a number of pro cyclists were caught and suspended, with some ending up in retirement, including 'Kaiser' Jan Ullrich, and Ivan Basso. Ullrich retired over the scandal, while Basso returned to professional racing this year following the conclusion of his two year suspension.
Why all this talk about OP (as Operacion Puerto is affectionately known)? Because there is every indication that Valverde was also involved. To the point that, in an independent investigation, the Italian Federation has suspended Valverde from racing on Italian soil for two years (hence the impossibility for Alejandro to race in this year's Tour, as it came over the border). This, to put things mildly, bothers me to no end. Here is another guy who allegedly got caught with his hands in the cookie jar walking away with no penalty because his national federation refused to investigate the case... But given that Basso is back this year and only placed fourth in the Vuelta, I could be accused of writing all this as sour grapes that my man did not win. That may be, but OP casts a shadow on Valverde's victory which will be difficult for him to every overcome.
It says something that this year's Vuelta winner was unable to race either the Giro or the Tour de France. It bothers me. I hope it bothers enough people at the UCI to do something about it...