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Revealing that a major story is coming soon about hidden motors, the inventor of the mechanical devices, Istvan ‘Stefano’ Varjas has said that he sold one of the devices to an unnamed person in 1998 and then obeyed a exclusivity agreement for ten years.
“It was the end of ‘98 and I had to stay quiet until 2009, for ten years. It was time for sleeping, ten years,” Varjas told Ger Gilroy, the presenter of the Newstalk radio show Off the Ball.
“In 1998 I just sold one prototype. To my friend. I got big money, I just go to sleep for ten years and I don’t do anything.
“This one was the first generation of these kind of motors, because these motors came from a military application. At that time it was able to miniaturize with powerful magnets. These motors became very small, you could put in any place. When you have a construction you can put it in any kind of bicycle, it is not a problem. It is just a matter of budget.”
Asked as to how much the prototype cost him, he said that he spent more than 80,000 USD in making it.
The exclusivity agreement gave the person concerned the right to use the product for a decade.
“Then in 2009 when the time is finished for sleeping, I just go immediately to several big Italian companies and am starting to work with them in the development of this for public use.”
The Hungarian engineer wouldn’t elaborate on the specifics of the deal, but said that more information would be known shortly.
“It [the story] is very soon. You will see a big story, I think. You will see. It is a documentary. They get all the evidence under oath, they made it under oath in America. And you will see very soon.”
“After[wards] I can talk. I have no problem after. But they have exclusivity, they paid me for the exclusivity in the report.”
Last week Gilroy interviewed Lance Armstrong on the same radio show. The Texan categorically denied ever being offered a bike with a hidden motor, or using one.
“As a matter of interest, why?” Gilroy replied. “What is the difference between doing that and taking EPO?”
Armstrong: Ger…what…are you…are you a complete rookie? What are you talking about? In 1999, nobody even knew…motors were for motorcycles. Are you out of your mind?
Seriously… First of all, I know that is topical. I know there has been a rider caught with a motor. Are you crazy?
Gilroy: No, I am just talking to people who are saying that there is a big story about motors coming and I am interested in getting your perspective on it and to see if anybody ever offered you one?
Armstrong: Yeah, and I answered that, and the answer is no.
‘Miracles don’t exist’
Although Varjas said his exclusivity agreement ran until 2009, he suggested that others may have had access to the technology sooner.
“From 2007 a lot of people can use it as there is an Austrian company, Vivax, ex-Gruber,” he said. “They sell it regularly. It is an official product. Everyone can buy it.
“The only weak point of this system is there is not too much power, not too much torque. But for 50 watts, 60 watts or 70 watts it is perfect, it is not a problem.
“My system is more sophisticated. It is more strong. Different clients, different performance, different quality.”
Asked if he believed if riders were using these devices in Grand Tours such as the Tour de France, he said that he believed it is the case.
“This January they grabbed a girl in Belgium, at the world championship for cyclo cross [Femke Van den Driessche – ed.] It is a Vivax system, the Austrian system. It is the same system that several racers used.
“I saw with my eyes in some bicycles. I know somebody used it. Just enough to see…if the cadence is a bit higher than the normal, then it is a bit strange. It is not possible to do this without a motor. You can ask any doctors, you can ask any expert.”
In the same interview, Varjas claimed that the UCI wasn’t doing what it could to catch those using motors. He said that during this year’s Tour de France, French police spoke to him and he told them how they should act to detect motors being used by riders.
The detection method advocated involved the use of thermal imaging cameras. However he said that the UCI refused to carry out the requested checks.
“This is the scandal, not who uses or doesn’t use it. There is an organisation who has to stop this problem and they don’t do it.
“I think they are accomplices or something like this. I can’t accuse, but this happened this summer. I was witness, Kathy [LeMond] was a witness, and the Gendarmerie were witnesses to this thing.” [Click here to read the full story]
The UCI has since rejected his claim. “The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) condemns the accusations being made in some news reports concerning the UCI’s commitment to tackle technological fraud and the tests made at this year’s Tour de France,” it said in a statement sent to CyclingTips on Thursday.
“The UCI carried out extensive bike checks using various detection methods in close collaboration with race organiser, French authorities and French law enforcement.”
Varjas was asked how he knew that riders had been using such products in races.
“For me some racers used it,” he said. “Because I told you, miracles don’t exist. You need to just do one thing if you are curious who uses it: you use a heat camera, or you check with the calculation of elevation, how fast you did it. It is a simple calculation.”
He said that the practice of calculating climbing times based on the rate of vertical elevation is valid. This has been dismissed as pseudoscience by Sky Principal Dave Brailsford and others.
“Afterwards [with jumps in performance] there is a problem,” said Varjas. “If your physiological limit is 350 watts, how can you go 420 watts for one hour? Explain it to me. If you can explain to me, repeat it. Then I can accept it.
“But you can ask any doctors…even with the doping, you are not able to do it. You can use EPO or what you want…you can maybe exceed [your own natural capacities by] 30 or 40 watts, but not 70 or 80 like this.”
“I never sold to any racer directly”
Varjas was asked about Armstrong’s former coach and doping doctor, Michele Ferrari. Gilroy asked if the two knew each other. After a long pause, Varjas confirmed this was the case.
“Yes,” he said. “He is a friend.”
Responding to further questions, he said that he had met him for the first time about three years ago, and not before that.
Had he ever sold a bike or a system to him?
“Yes,” he answered Gilroy. “But he came to me, he approached me some years ago just to understand this system [and] if it really exists. He understands how to use it for training. He has a blog and you can read the efficacy of this system. You can understand how much it helps.”
He said that Ferrari used a bike equipped with a motor for motorpacing. “It is better than being behind a scooter when it makes an acceleration,” he told Gilroy. “If you are using my bike, this bike will bring you to your top form some weeks before [a key rate]. It makes the same effects [as motorpacing, but] you are not inhaling the smoke of the scooter. For training it is excellent.”
A previous article in L’Equipe included a quote saying that Varjas never sold directly to riders, but that there was an intermediary in Monaco who would buy bikes on behalf of riders. It also stated that Varjas was aware of this.
Gilroy asked him if this was true.
“I never sold to any racer directly,” Varjas replied. “I am sure. And after that, if somebody came to me and bought a bike and gave it to some racers, I don’t know. It is their problem, it is not my problem.”
Asked about his products, Varjas said that they can make very large differences to the power outputs. He also confirmed that hidden motors can be placed in wheels, something that some have been dismissive of.
“I prepare bikes from 100 watts to 800 watts. It depends on what you want. Even I have some wheel systems which you are able to reach also like these…you can get also 3000 watts without any problem.
“But the possibilities exist. Not only with me. I think with normal engineering, if they spend a bit more money and time, they can also create this kind of system.
“I have my own system which works in certain conditions, in certain limits, gives certain assistance. Big torque, big power, silent. But there is also another system which may be more noisy, less torque, less power, but it is also sufficient to have an advantage.”
Although he said that his motors are silent, he said that this is not necessary in professional racing due to the noise levels. He said that the public at the race, the cars and other things creating noise made it unnecessary for motors to be completely silent.
“When you are using it in the race, you can’t hear it. It is impossible,” he said. “And the higher you go, the air is more rare and it is more difficult to hear the sound. It is easy to use.”
For Varjas, the bigger tell is the jump in performance that a rider can experience in using such devices.
“You have to be careful how to use it, because if you exaggerate, they can grab you by the calculations of the Watts,” he said. “After, how do you explain? ‘Okay, I was very strong.’ Yes, repeat it please. Do it now in controlled circumstances.
“Miracles don’t exist in the sport. There is no miracle. We are terrestrial people, not Martians. So the gravity is acting on everybody.
“Okay, if you go a bit faster it is okay. You can be strong, but not with 30 percent of difference respective to other racers.”
Click here to hear the full interview.