Fear of mechanical doping has reared its ugly head once again at the Tour de France.
Now that the cycling event has concluded, with UAE Team Emirates’ Tadej Pogačar as the victor, reports are coming out from unnamed riders that they heard “strange noises” coming from the rear wheels of other teams’ racing bikes during the race.
The noise was reportedly coming from the rear wheels and sounded like a little sizzling noise. While past examples of mechanical doping in competitive biking came in the form of a tiny motor (which goes a long way) hidden in the tubing and seat, riders are describing this new form of mechanical enhancement similar to the energy recovery system used in Formula 1 cars. An unnamed rider commented, “There is no longer talk of a motor in the crankset or an electromagnet system in the wheel rims, but of a device hidden in the hub. We are also talking about an energy recuperator via the brakes.”
Some riders are also questioning how the same group of teams dominated the position this year compared to past years where there was only a single team that was consistently on top throughout the stages. Not only that, without mentioning the rider, he went on to point out that one suspect rider who has always been average suddenly became very strong after signing with a new team.
The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) rejected the claims stating that they ran 720 tests for the race. 606 magnetic scanning tablet tests were conducted on bikes before the start of each stage while 114 bikes were scanned using X-ray at the end of each stage. The UCI also revealed that they will be taking it a step further for the Tokyo Olympics with a new form of testing that uses new backscatter technology to provide instant images of the interior of the bikes in real-time.
There is currently only one proven case of mechanical doping where the (now-retired) 24-year-old Belgian cyclo-cross rider Femke Van den Driessche was caught with a motor in her bike during the 2016 Cyclo-Cross World Championships.
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