LeMond says Tour riders may be using motors to cheat
Retired cyclist Greg LeMond is used to speaking his mind, especially when it comes to cheating in the sport. The threetime Tour de France champion spoke out about Lance Armstrong long before it was popular to do so, and now he’s alleging some cyclists could be gaining an unfair edge in major races like the Tour de France by installing tiny motors in their bikes.
“I believe it’s been used in racing, I believe it’s been used sometimes in the Grand Tours,” LeMond told the Associated Press on Wednesday. He did not specify whether he thought any riders in this year’s iteration of the race have been using the technology, but he did accuse the sport’s governing body of “not doing enough” to ensure racers don’t use the technology. He said the pre-race equipment checks by the International Cycling Union (UCI) are “fluff ” and “all words.”
UCI President Brian Cookson, however, said his team takes all accusations of cheating seriously, including “mechanical doping,” as it has come to be known.
“We understand that although this subject sometimes causes amusement and derision, we know that the technology is available. We have seen examples of it in laboratory conditions,” Cookson told the Agence FrancePresse after Cedric Vasseur, a former cyclist-turned-analyst on French television, commented that Tour de France leader Chris Froome’s bike looked to be “pedaling itself.”
“[ W]e’ve done testing at Milan-San Remo, the Giro [d’Italia], Paris-Nice, and from time to time we’ll do tests during the rest of the season,” Cookson said. “We have no evidence that it has been used in competition yet, but sadly we do know that in competitive sport sometimes some people will try to find ways of cheating.”
The minuscule motors may sound more like science fiction than reality, but the technology does seem to exist— at least on television.
During the 2010 Giro d’Italia, retired cyclist Davide Cassani demonstrated how the motor works on Italy’s Rai television.
Hidden in the bike’s tube, the battery-operated motor is controlled by a switch located near the bike’s brake levers. Once the motor gets the back wheel spinning on its own, the pedals start to go and a rider presumably just needs to go through the motions while the motor propels him at up to 31 mph.
“I tried the bike, and I can tell you that with this bike and its engine, Imay win a Giro stage although I’m50 years old,” Cassani said.