A former professional cyclist from Colombia has been arrested on suspicion of trafficking and dealing cocaine in Italy, with traces of the drug found in the seat tube of the mountain bike he was riding when he was stopped by Carabinieri.
Juan Pablo Valencia Gonzales, who rode for UCI Professional Continental outfit Team Colombia from 2012 to 2015, is believed to have stocked up on the drug in Bergamo, Lombardy, where he was officially resident.
The 31-year-old is thought to have made regular trips to the small town of Montegranaro, some 500 kilometres to the south east in Italy’s Marche region, where he is alleged to have sold it.
Il Resto del Carlino reports that officers launched an investigation after hearing reports of a foreigner selling cocaine in the town, which is home to some 13,000 people.
The newspaper says it proved difficult for Carabinieri to track down Valencia since he had no permanent address in the town but instead stayed with a succession of friends who were apparently unaware of his alleged drug-dealing.
Once they identified a house where he was staying, it was kept under surveillance, and he was arrested when he emerged from the building with his bike.
Valencia tried to dispose of two wraps but officers retrieved them and discovered that they contained a total of 20 grams of cocaine.
A search of the premises led to the discovery of a suitcase in which they found a further 40 grams of pure cocaine, a substance to cut it with, a set of precision electronic scales and €4,000 in cash.
The presence of strong traces of cocaine within the bike’s seat tube has led officers to believe that Valencia used the bike not only to hide the drug, but also to make deliveries to customers.
Valencia, who was born in Medellin – home to the notorious drug trafficking cartel run by Pablo Escobar in the 1980s and early 1990s – appeared in one Grand Tour during his professional cycling career, the 2015 Vuelta a Espana, where he finished 87th overall.
During the same season he won the mountains classification at the Tour of Turkey. He also rode Milan-San Remo on one occasion, and raced Italy's other Monument, Il Lombardia, twice.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.