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As the days tick down to the start of the Tour de France, the UCI has announced a massive expansion on the number of motor tests to be carried out on bikes at the race.
Last year testing was done sporadically on the Tour, with just 25 bikes tested by the end of stage 18. Five were done on stage two, five on stage eight, nine on stage nine and six on stage 18.
Things have been taken a lot more seriously this year. According to the UCI, approximately 500 tests were carried out at the Tour de Suisse and over 2,000 at the Giro d’Italia.
“For the forthcoming Tour de France, the UCI will have resources in place to conduct between 3,000 and 4,000 tests,” said the governing body in a statement on Monday. “An effective testing protocol is one which is unpredictable so the UCI confirms that it will deploy additional methods of detection at the Tour to both assess their performance and to ensure a varied testing protocol.”
The UCI is using tablet computers with customised software. In addition to its staff carrying out tests, it said that national federations have placed orders and that some are rolling out testing at national-level races. It spoke of excellent cooperation from teams and riders.
UCI President Brian Cookson said that the governing body was tackling the issue strongly. “Since the beginning of the year, we are sending a clear message which is that there is literally nowhere to hide for anyone foolish enough to attempt to cheat in this way. A modified bike is extremely easy to detect with our scanners and we will continue to deploy them extensively throughout the Tour and the rest of the season.”
However others don’t wish to rely solely on such testing. On Monday French Secretary for State for Sport Thierry Braillard announced that thermal cameras would be used at the Tour de France to tackle motor use.
These will pick up the heat signatures from motors and, will also be mounted on in-race motorbike. The current UCI checks only work on stationary machines and can’t be carried out during races.
The thermal cameras were developed by the Commissariat of Atomic Energy at the request of the French government.
According to France Info, the new detection method was trialled at three races during the weekend’s French cycling championships in Vesoul.
Between the two techniques, it appears that anyone considering motor use during the Tour is taking a huge risk. And it’s not only punishable by sporting sanctions: Braillard said that he was in favour of criminalising this method of cheating as fraud.