ABETONE, Italy (VN) — Ex-sprinter Mario Cipollini made waves Wednesday when he suggested during the post-stage RAI TV broadcast that riders shouldn’t change their bikes mid-stage ahead of key mountaintop finales.
Why? Cipollini suggested that it’s “bad for the image of cycling, because people think there’s a motor in it.”
Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) just laughed off that line, especially since he was the target of Cipollini’s barb. With about 35km to go, Contador eased off the roadway for a planned bike change ahead of the Giro’s first major mountaintop finish.
“There are a lot of reasons to change a bike. Like tubulars, which [may] not be able to be raced for 200km, but they can last for 30km or 40km,” said Contador, before joking. “My bikes don’t have one motor. They have five. And this talk of motors? That’s a joke, that’s something from science fiction.”
Rumors of motors hidden inside frames might be considered a joke by some, but the UCI is taking them very seriously. The cycling governing body has already checked bikes during this Giro, a move that comes on the heels of checking dozens of bikes for illicit motors during Milano-Sanremo.
So far, no motors have turned up inside professional bike frames, and nearly everyone agrees it would be a PR disaster for the sport.
Switching bikes during races is nothing new. Riders will often pull off for quick, planned bike changes ahead of key mountain stages to ride a bike with lighter wheels, different tire pressure, or easier gearing. Contador has done that throughout his career at choice moments.
Contador also took offense to Cipollini’s suggestion, insisting that changing bikes should be viewed as a positive reflection of the sport’s ever-growing specialization and technical advances.
“I think it’s wrong to say that bike changes are not good for the sport,” Contador said. “It’s the contrary, it should be viewed as a good thing, that we use different materials and bikes for different situations.”
Cycling’s changed since the days of Cipollini, in more ways than one.