In what first looked like to be an April Fool’s story posted on La Gazzetta dello Sport has turned out to be not quite a hoax … but not much of a scandal, either.
La Gazzetta dello Sport published a story Friday suggestion that Critérium International winner Fränk 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 increase 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!)
While wearing a faring is indeed banned by UCI rules, Leopard-Trek officials say Schleck raced with something less devious and completely legal: a Camelbak hydration system.
“Fränk rode with a Camelback on his belly,” Leopard-Trek spokesman Tim Vanderjeugd told VeloNews. “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.
Vanderjeugd said Schleck decided to use the Camelbak for the first time in a race, opting to don one during the short, 7km individual time trial to close out the Critérium International.
Schleck, not known for his time trialing prowess, defended his overall lead to secure final victory at Critérium, stopping the clock for 12th at 24 seconds slower than stage winner Andreas Klöden.
“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 said. “You can put the bag wherever you want. Water is important in any time trial, even as one as short as 7km.”
It seems that some in the media are taking a skeptical eye at some of the Leopard-Trek riders. Last week, a Belgian newspaper printed a story about how Fabian Canceallara was using special bearing technology during his tenure at Saxo Bank. The team said Cancellara, who was even accused last year of using a battery-charged motor mounted inside his frame during last year’s classics, is not using it at Leopard-Trek.
“I guess this is what happens when you’re one of the biggest teams in the world, you attract this kind of attention,” Vanderjeugd said. “We’re following the rules, we’re not worried about these kinds of stories.”