Exposed: the hidden motor used by French amateur

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Former French professional and current French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) employee Christophe Bassons has unveiled the bike seized from a French amateur rider on Sunday. The rider, a 43-year-old man named only as Cyril F. by French media, had a miraculous series of results in recent weeks, riding far above his former level and beating riders who were previously much better than him.

The transformation in his riding ability came after he stopped using his expensive S Works machine and instead switched to a cheaper frame he said his friends bought on the internet for 1500 euro. His performances soared, including a strong ride in the first category Grand Prix des Eyzies event.

According to France 3, he was competing on Sunday in a third category event held in Saint-Michel de Double, about fifty kilometres south-west of Périgueux. He had spent much of the race in a break with Mathys Fédrigo, nephew of former pro Pierrick Fédrigo, who suffered to hold his pace. Cyril F. reportedly noticed officials – including Bassons – watching him before he punctured out of the event with four laps remaining. He then returned to his car and drove off.

Bassons gave chase in his own car and motioned for the rider to pull over. Judicial officials from Périgueux also joined them. Bassons then examined the bike and found a battery concealed in a bottle and a motor in the downtube.

In the France3 video above, he speaks about the device in French. The images show what was seized. Bassons states that the motor requires frame tubes of a very specific dimension, thus explaining why the rider concerned changed his bike from his previous model.

He then talks through the mechanism and how it is installed. He describes the motor as one of the ‘first generation,’ recognising that there are likely more advanced models available.

Cyril F. was arrested on Sunday and taken to the Périgueux police station. He faces charges of sporting fraud. He has reportedly admitted fitting the motor to his bike. The video below is another France3 report showing his arrest and also images of him racing on the bike in question beforehand.

Previously, a spare bike belonging to Belgian cyclocross rider Femke Van den Driessche was found to have a similar device installed during the 2016 world cyclocross championships. She was suspended for six years and fined 20,000 Swiss francs plus the costs of the proceedings against her.

At the time the-then UCI president Brian Cookson said that disciplinary action was possible against others who may have aided her. “I do not think it all stops here for her entourage,” he told Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad in May 2016. “Let me put it this way: I can’t imagine that this young lady has done this all on her own.

“If it turns out that other people were involved in the fraud, there could be consequences for them too. If necessary, we will refer them to the Belgian Cycling Federation.”

He repeated this at a later point, telling CyclingTips in July 2016 that the investigation was ongoing. “It is still with the lawyers, and we are working with the Belgian authorities on that issue,” he said. “It is not resolved yet. It is not the end of the story, I think.”

However nothing further ever emerged. The reasoned decision about her case was also never made public.

Separately, in July of this year La Gazzetta dello Sport announced that a 53-year-old Italian amateur was caught using hidden motor at an event in Bedizzole, near Brescia. The device was detected using a thermal camera.

Cookson was recently defeated by Frenchman David Lappartient in the UCI’s presidential election held at the world road championships in Bergen, Norway. Lappartient had said ramping up the fight against mechanical doping is one of his main priorities, describing the extra measures he will introduce.

The arrest of a French amateur using such a device will presumably add to his motivation to knuckle down on this type of cheating.

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