The LottoNL-Jumbo team has demanded an apology and a retraction of accusations against its rider Primoz Roglic, as made by the Stade 2 TV programme on Sunday. The makers of the programme claimed that there were suspicions of hidden motor use concerning the Slovenian rider, both in relation to the Strade Bianche race and the Giro d’Italia.
Stade 2 pointed to a thermal image from the former as backing up its claims, with the photo in question appearing to show a glow at the hub area.
In an earlier programme the documentary makers had claimed that this kind of heat signature could be indicative of motors in wheels.
Contacted by WielerFlits, LottoNL-Jumbo manager Richard Plugge was scathing about the claims.
“In the Strade Bianche the images were not made with a wheel of the team, but with a rear wheel from the neutral car,” he said.
“At the time of punctures the neutral car was close to Roglic. Not much later directeur sportif Jan Boven drove past and this moment can be seen on the images of Stade 2.”
He added that the rider eventually finished 25 minutes behind the winner.
As regards the Giro d’Italia, Stade 2 claimed that a last minute change of bikes before the stage nine time trial in Chianti meant that the machine wasn’t checked for a motor. Although it was the longest race against the clock that Roglic had ever done, he beat former hour record holder Mathias Brandle (IAM Cycling) by ten seconds, with Brandle’s teammate Vegard Stake Laengen a further seven seconds back in third.
Other riders such as Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) were further back, but these were hampered by wet conditions.
Responding to the doubts raised, Plugge first points to Roglic’s second place in the opening time trial, an effort which saw him finish less than a second off the victorious Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin).
“In the prologue of the Tour of Italy Primoz Roglic already showed that his time trial is a strong weapon,” he stated. “ Roglic’s bike for the prologue was tested for mechanical doping and measured according to UCI rules regarding the size/length of a trial bike. The bike was approved.”
Plugge added that there was no nefarious reason for the late change of the machine on stage nine.
“Shortly before the start his time trial bike was checked on the basis of the previously-mentioned rules regarding the size, the length of the trial bike,” he said. “Although the exact same bike was approved with the same dimensions for the prologue, according to the UCI this time the bike was not adjusted according to the rules.”
He said that the rider switched to the reserve bike held by [directeur sportif] Addy Engels, which was 150 metres away. Although he said that this bike was the same length [as the first machine – ed.], he said it was approved by the UCI.
Other riders have complained in the past about inconsistent interpretation of rules concerned bike setup dimensions, and Plugge identifies this as an issue.
“Other riders in time trials have the problem that the time trial bike is rejected on the dimensions,” he said. “The AIGCP is in talks with the UCI as this measurement method needs to be as accurate as possible.”
Frustrated by the accusations, the team has requested Stade 2 to withdraw the claims and to issue a clarification, as well as apologise to Roglic and LottoNL-Jumbo.
Earlier this month the programme makers reported that UCI technical manager Mark Barfield alerted motorised bike company Typhoon to police plans to investigate suspected hidden motor use in the 2015 Tour de France. Typhoon in turn contacted a controversial engineer employed by it at the time, Stefano Varjas, which prompted him to leave France and thus avoid police questioning.
Barfield admitted sending the email in question but claimed there was no sinister reasoning behind this.