Spanish double Tour de France winner Juan Miguel Mercado is under investigation after allegedly being involved in a burglary gang.
Mercado, who rode for iBanesto.com and Quick-Step during his racing career from 1998 to 2007, has been named in Spanish media as a suspect after thieves stole an estimated €120,000 across 16 different burglaries.
The Spanish Civil Guard has arrested three other suspects, according to Spanish newspaper Granada Hoy, while Mercado is under investigation.
According to reports, police are investigating the string of thefts from shops and homes in the city of Granada in southern Spain as part of Operation Zaletasuna.
The first of the offences took place on December 1 last year, as the offenders have forced the doors of various homes, bakeries, bars, and supermarkets to steal vehicles, appliances, sports equipment, musical instruments, electronics, jewellery and furniture.
A woman and two men, aged between 23 and 33, have already been arrested in connection with the string of burglaries, while Mercado is being investigated.
Now 41, Mercado started his career with Vitalico Seguros in 1998, going on to ride for iBanesto from 2001, joining Quick-Step in 2004, and spending the final two years of his career with Agritubel before his retirement in 2007.
During his career, Mercado won two stages of the Tour de France – in 2004 and 2006 – a stage of the Vuelta a España in 2001 and finished fifth overall in the that edition of the Spanish Grand Tour.
In 2004, he claimed the stage win on day 18 of the Tour de France in Lons le Saunier after winning a two-up sprint, repeating the victory on stage 10 of the 2006 Tour when he beat Cyril Dessel in Pau.
He took 12 career wins before retirement, including the overall at the Vuelta a Burgos and a stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné.
Mercado has not yet publicly responded to the allegations.
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