19-year-old Cian Uijtdebroeks is one of the most promising Belgian riders breaking through into the WorldTour, his country’s press treat him like a low sugar variety of Remco Evenepoel. Snapped up by Bora-Hansgrohe for 2022, the neo-pro is already well-seasoned in media duties.
However, in a recent interview he stuck his head above the parapet, uncommon for teenage riders making their first steps in professional life, and give his frank, uncensored view on legal painkiller use in the peloton.
“Everyone does what they want with that, but I don’t intend to undermine my long-term health for short-term performance,” Uijtdebroeks told Bahamontes magazine. “If I am beaten by a rider who has taken three grams of paracetamol in the final, I will be frustrated. While it’s perfectly legal, I’m not going to do it. Even if I lose a race because of this and if someone advises me to try it anyway, I will stick to my own plan.”
The Belgian says he first heard about legal painkiller use at the Saudi Tour, his first professional stage race.
“Don’t forget: until recently I rode sandwiches with sugar and bananas in the juniors,” he continued.
“Why would you take 2.5 grams of paracetamol in the final? You do that when you are sick, and then not in that amount. I don’t drink coffee, so a gel with caffeine has a huge impact on me. Will I use the amount of caffeine of two cups of coffee during a race? Yes, because that sharpens my focus. But two cups and not fifteen. I’d rather eat twenty beets. I understand, but I’ll pass.”
The debate about legal performance enhancement has reared up again this week after French pros Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) commented on the revelation that tennis player Rafal Nadal had received legal anaesthetic injections in his foot, numbing the feeling in it completely, throughout the French Open tournament, which he then won.
Other professional riders have since voiced their own opinions.
“If this were allowed with us, a lot of riders would still continue during the classics, for example. You don’t like to drop a goal you’ve been training for all winter. So don’t tell me that there are colleagues who wouldn’t participate in this,” Trek-Segafredo’s Jasper Stuyven told Het Nieuwsblad. “If the rules allow it, then there is no discussion. I don’t think he’s even in the grey zone. What is a doping scandal in our context is allowed in their context.”
“I’m glad it’s not allowed in our sport, simply because it’s unhealthy,” added EF Education EasyPost’s Jens Keukeleire. “I can imagine that Nadal will not be able to walk properly for a month, which means that it is not good for the body. But it remains bitter: as a cyclist you are a doping sinner if you use it, in another sport you are a hero who endures unbelievable pain. And that, as far as I’m concerned, is something for discussion.”