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Fränk Schleck downplays ‘Camel-belly’ controversy

2011 Critérium International, stage three, Fränk Schleck
Is that a camelbak on your belly or are you just trying to cheat me?

Fränk Schleck (Leopard-Trek) downplayed suggestions that he used a Camelbak hydration system to help him become more aerodynamic in a time trial en route to overall victory at the Critérium International.

Schleck, racing this week at the Tour of the Basque Country, denied that he used the hydration system as an unfair advantage. Schleck raced with the bag mounted on his chest rather than on the traditional position on the back, causing some to suggest he used it as an illegal fairing to become more aerodynamic.

“I am surprised. When I heard all this, I really didn’t understand the fuss. I used a Camelbak, but I don’t know if this helps to gain time. All I know is that we wanted to try out the material ahead of upcoming time trials for longer courses such as the Tour de France,” Schleck told the Luxembourg daily Le Quotidien. “I didn’t know that the Camelbak could be illegal. In Corsica, the press and the commissaires all saw it and no one said a thing to me about it. I didn’t think this would cause such problems. I know that a lot of riders have tried it before. It’s a system to drink during a time trial and I wanted to try it. I wasn’t trying to hide anything. I don’t want to say anything more about an unnecessary polemic. I don’t know if I will be disqualified or not, we’ll see, but I don’t believe I did anything wrong.”

The UCI has confirmed it is making inquiries to see if Schleck may have broken rules, though UCI commissaires at the Corsica saw Schleck use the system yet did not raise concerns that it might be illegal.

La Gazzetta dello Sport published a story Friday suggestion that Schleck used an illegal fairing mounted to his chest in the decisive, final-stage time trial on Corsica. The story even quoted Dr. Michele Ferrari, who wrote on his blog that such a device would decrease drag by 15 to 20 watts and shave up to two seconds per kilometer in the race against the clock.

The Italian sports daily went so far as to write in a headline: “Schleck, questo è un trucco!” (Schleck, that’s cheating!)

“Fränk rode with a Camelbak on his belly,” Leopard-Trek spokesman Tim Vanderjeugd told VeloNews last week. “The UCI was there in Corsica. They saw Fränk use it and they didn’t say anything. And we haven’t heard from them all week. For us, it’s not a big deal.”

Camelbak’s hydration bags have been used by several top pros over the past several years, including Bobby Julich, who was one of the first to use the Camelbak race vest under his skin suit. Julich used the hydration system to win the individual time trial bronze medal in the 2004 Olympic Games.

“It’s the first time we’ve used the Camelbak and we will evaluate it to see if we use them in other competitions. If it’s used as a drinking device, the UCI rules allow it. Of course, if they change the rules, we wouldn’t use it,” Vanderjeugd continued. “You can put the bag wherever you want. He used it for drinking, not for aerodynamics.”

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