Italian, French media say video shows hidden motors

Italian and French media say video captured via thermal camera points to "motorized doping" in the peloton

Photo: TDW

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

MILAN (VN) — Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper and France’s Télévisions Stade 2 say video evidence shows riders cheating with motors at Italian races Strade Bianche and Coppi e Bartali this March.

The Italian and French media outlets collaborated to capture images from the races using a hidden thermal video camera. Published footage shows seven riders’ bicycles lit up brightly yellow and orange, five with heat coming from their seat-tubes and two with heat in their hubs.

“It happened in March, in Strade Bianche and Coppi e Bartali,” reported Corriere della Sera. “UCI controls? No, images from from France Télévisions’ hidden camera.”

Since April 2010, when some accused Fabian Cancellara of using a motor in the classics, cycling’s governing body has ramped up its controls. Over the course of the last year, the UCI has used tablets to test bikes for hidden motors. This winter, Belgian junior racer Femke Van den Driessche was caught with a motor at the cyclocross world championships in Belgium.

It is unknown whether the UCI is supplementing that testing with thermal cameras like the one used for Sunday’s report.

“The UCI is using its tablet at the start area where the motors are off,” reported the Corriere della Sera. “They are using a Tesla meter. We tested it one like the UCI’s, and it is unreliable for the elusive magnetic field.”

“We have looked at thermal imaging, x-ray and ultrasonic testing but by far the most cost effective, reliable and accurate method has proved to be magnetic resonance testing using software we have created in partnership with a company of specialist developers,” the UCI said in a statement Sunday. “The scanning is done with a tablet and enables an operator to test the frame and wheels of a bike in less than a minute.

“It is with this scanning method that we detected a hidden motor at the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Heusden Zolder in January 2016 where we tested over 100 bikes. We have tested bikes at many races this year (for example 216 at Tour of Flanders, 224 at Paris-Roubaix) and will continue to test heavily in all disciplines throughout the year. Co-operation from teams and riders as we have deployed these extensive tests has been excellent. We are confident that we now have a method of detection that is extremely efficient and easy to deploy”

Corriere della Sera did not name the riders depicted in the film and did not say whether it handed the information over to the UCI to catch the cyclists. It reported that the new seat-tube motors generate 250 watts, and that magnetic induction wheel technology generates 60, with an expert putting the wheel’s cost at around €50,000 or $56,400.

Former Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins said in February, “I’m sure [motorized cheating] happened in the past but they haven’t found them.” The UCI said it was considering a lifetime ban for Femke Van den Driessche, but has yet to release its decision.

“They should suspend them for life,” cycling great Eddy Merckx said. “For me they should suspend them for life. This is the worst that they can do, they should just race motorbikes then.”

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.