After Bahrain Victorious was searched for the second time in the week leading up to the Tour de France, this time at the team’s hotel in Copenhagen at 5.30am, an awkward and bizarre pre-race press conference was held less than nine hours later.
These two searches, the first of which was conducted at the homes of riders and team staff around Europe, stem from the ongoing doping investigation into Bahrain Victorious launched by the French authorities during last year’s Tour de France. The search at the team hotel in 2021 led to the seizure phones, laptops, and medical products.
“Everything good?” a member of the Tour organisation asks from the press room, the press conference being beamed out from the sanctity of the Bahrain Victorious team hotel.
“There is a buzzing background noise,” comes the reply from Bahrain Victorious staff. While the buzzing has plagued other online press events this week, the symbolism is most apt for this particular conference.
As the incessant buzzing drones on, the team’s performance manager, Vladimir Miholjević, asks to make a quick statement before the Q&A.
“We would like to tell you more but we don’t really have more to tell you,” the statement began. “We would like to have more details from investigators but actually to be able to understand what is the reason for such action. Our team is fully focused on the cycling race in front of us and achieving our goals in the next few weeks.”
The short statement concluded, it’s time for questions from the media.
“They will only be answering questions about cycling and the race itself,” the Bahrain Victorious press officer says before opening up the floor to questions. “And let’s leave the stage for those who really deserve it.”
They are referring to the two riders sat in front of the video camera. Matej Mohorič and Jack Haig, the former of whom is wearing a mask.
A journalist from the press room steps up to ask a question. “We can’t ask questions about the investigation but can we ask what it was like being woken up at 5.30am for the rooms to be searched?”
“We are focused on racing,” comes the brief reply.
“As we just said the guys won’t be asking any questions about the investigation so if you have any questions about the race please go ahead,” the press officer implores. There are no more questions from the press room, the ASO employee informs Bahrain Victorious.
Journalists not in the press room who’ve logged in remotely via Zoom are invited to submit questions with the Q&A feature.
We are now more than three and a half minutes into the press conference. Haig and Mohorič sit there patiently.
“A question does pop up,” Haig motions for Miholjević who is sitting alongside him to answer it but the reply is again brief, the question batted away.
Another question pops up, asking Haig how his team may look to take on the might of Tadej Pogačar and Primož Roglič. It goes unnoticed by the press officer.
“If there are no questions about the race then we’ll be ending the press conference. Okay, thanks everyone.”
The video feed cuts. The standoff has ended. The run time of the press conference was less than five minutes.