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"I’d still love to get in the Tour de France team, and if I put in a good performance in Switzerland then hopefully I can ride myself into contention," Henao says

Photo_ Team Sky

SERGIO LUIS HENAO

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17.06.2014 @ 14:20 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Going into the season, Sergio Henao was set to be one of Chris Froome's key domestiques in the Tour de France but his career and season took an unexpected turn when his Sky team put him on inactive status due to irregular blood values. Having been cleared for any wrong-doing, the Colombian still hopes to make his Tour debut this summer.

 

Team Sky have done nothing to hide that they regard Sergio Henao as one of their future stars and last year he was given the sole leadership role at the Vuelta a Espana to develop himself into a grand tour contender. This year he was set to be one of the most important support riders for Chris Froome at the Tour de France and things were looking good for the pair when they blew the queen stage of the Tour of Oman to pieces back in February.

 

Shortly after that race, however, Sky announced that they had put Henao on inactive status sue to irregular blood values. The team was convinced that the abnomalies were due to him being an high-altitude native but as little research had been done in the area, Henao was set to undergo a testing program to check that Henao had done nothing wrong.

 

In early June, the research programme had been completed and Henao was cleared of any wrong-doing. This week he is making his return to racing at the Tour de Suisse and is happy to be back in competition after what has been a very tough period.

 

"I trained hard over the winter to meet my objectives and come into the season in the best possible form," he told TeamSky.com. "I was hoping to really step up this year. I knew I’d done nothing wrong so I had to stay calm and everything would be fine. I had to be patient and focus on my long-term goals.


"I had to provide regular urine and blood tests but never knew when they’d be. I provided them whilst I was at sea level in Europe, and at altitude in Colombia. It was a very thorough process and I’m happy it was carried out properly and professionally, both for me personally, and for the team.
 

"I just trained as normal and the research monitored the results. Nothing I wouldn’t otherwise have done.

 

"Initially I was shocked but once I’d spoken to them about their reasons, and discussed the plan they had for me, I felt a lot better. They invested a lot of time to ensure the process was carried out properly, and that it met the strict protocols.

 

"This was an unprecedented step for a sports team and I understand and respect them for doing it. Although it’s been a stressful process, it has ultimately been good for me.

 

"My family could not have been more supportive, and that was vital for me. My friends were all there for me 100% as well, as was my girlfriend, and they helped me so much. I am really thankful to every one of them.

 

"As for the team, they were great and they looked after me during this whole process. They made sure I was fully informed from the start and I’ve been in regular contact with my coaches to ensure my training didn’t suffer."

 

Despite his uncertain future, Henao continued his training and claims to be ready for his return.

 

"I’m in very good condition," he said. "I’ve looked after myself throughout this whole process, trained well, and done everything I would have done except race. I’ve stayed focused and I’m fit and ready. Obviously, I’m going to be missing a little bit of race sharpness, but that should come quite quickly and we’ll see how it goes next week."
 

Henao has already proved himself right. In yesterday's first uphill finish in the Tour de Suisse, he finished third and on the Brünigpass in stage 2 he seemed to be the strongest rider. With Bradley Wiggins out of GC contention, he is now the leader of his team.

 

Despite his lack of racing, he still hopes to ride his way onto the Tour roster.

 

"I’d still love to get in the Tour de France team, and if I put in a good performance in Switzerland then hopefully I can ride myself into contention. It would be special for me to ride my first Tour, but we will have to see.

 

"We’ll have an amazingly strong team there and we have a really good chance of winning again, so I definitely want to be part of that.

 

"Depending on whether I ride the Tour or not will affect my later-season goals. The races in Canada suit me well, and obviously there’s the Vuelta to consider."

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