As the Femke Van den Driessche mechanical doping case heads toward a UCI disciplinary commission hearing, the governing body has stepped up its checks for hidden motors in bikes by examining almost 100 machines at a French race on Friday.
A total of 90 bikes were scrutinised at the second stage of the La Méditerranéenne race. Six teams were involved, namely Delko, Roubaix-Lille Métropole, Auber 93, Bardiani, Androni Giocattoli and Veranclassic. No motors were found.
Bardiani CSF coach Claudio Cucinotta showed one of the checks in a post on his Instagram account.
“These bike checks used the same type of equipment which the UCI trialled at the 2016 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Heusden-Zolder (Belgium) where a concealed engine was detected,” said the governing body in a statement. “This equipment enables those performing the tests to investigate large numbers of bikes, both frames and wheels, in a short period of time.”
In an interview carried out by CyclingTips in December, UCI technical manager Mark Barfield said that its tests were based on magnetic resistance. This can be measured via smartphone and tablet apps. It is unclear if the UCI is using different technology, and also if additional tests are being carried out.
“The UCI has invested considerable time and financial resources in this area and trialling new methods of detection is part of its commitment to ensuring its tests are as robust as possible,” it stated.
However it is drawing on other areas too.
“Intelligence has also been gained from active engagement with the industry and other information given to us which has enabled us to refine and improve our testing.”
It added that it is committed to maintaining the search for motors. It said that it would “continue to test significant numbers of bikes in unannounced tests in all disciplines throughout 2016 and beyond.”
Rumours of the use of hidden motors surfaced back in 2010. Last July triple Tour de France winner Greg LeMond called for examinations to be stepped up, saying it was a very real threat. He also displayed the technology in a bike he had brought to the race to illustrate the point.
More recently Van den Driessche became the first rider caught in relation to so-called mechanical doping, with a spare bike in her pit area at the under 23 world cyclocross championships containing such technology.
She has denied the claims against her, saying that the bike belonged to a family friend and was taken to the pits in error.
Earlier this week the UCI announced that it had referred the matter to its disciplinary commission. The case will be heard in the coming weeks, with a verdict to follow.