By now you’ve probably read that French amateur Cyril Fontayne was busted with a motorized bike in a race on Sunday near Périgueux. The French Cycling Federation and local authorities, led by ex-pro Christophe Bassons — known for clashing with Lance Armstrong back in the day over doping allegations — mustered all of their resources to catch the cheat. According to some reports, Bassons jumped into his car to chase the guy down, making Bassons the closest thing cycling has to an anti-doping superhero.
And who is this nefarious cyclist? Fontayne, 43, is a local tradesman. The perp says he only wanted to get back into racing after a herniated disc this spring.
“I didn’t want to be the champion of Dordogne or win a lot of races. I just did it to feel good again,” he told France Bleu Périgord radio. “I’ve not sold drugs or killed a child. I’ve simply placed a motor in a bike. I will be made an example of, but that’s to cycling’s benefit as I’m not the only one to do this.”
It is a stretch to sympathize with Fontayne. Part of his argument rests on his belief that the motorized cheater bicycles are now commonplace. Yeah, he’s that guy on the group ride who believes that everyone who beat him must be cheating.
Personally, I’m somewhat dubious of Fontayne’s claims. But let’s embrace debate and assume that these nefarious bikes have completely inundated the amateur peloton. Every weekend the Masters 50-plus category at your local gran fondo is composed of guys zipping along at 40mph without pedaling. In this dystopian scenario, it would be incumbent on cycling’s governing body to create some regulations for the new technology.
If I were charged with regulating cheater bikes in amateur racing, here are the rules I would levy on the motorheads:
1. No chamois allowed
Bike racing is all about discomfort. He (or she) who can endure the most pain and suffering should win, right? Not with a cheater bike. A motor in the bike makes things a little too cushy for cyclists. So my new rule: Motorheads are forbidden from racing with a pad in their shorts. Back in the day, the only pro rider who could endure this masochistic level of pain was Tinker Juarez. He went chamois-free for most of his races. So if you’re going to pound out 100 miles on your motorized bike, prepare to go full-Tinker and plant your heinie on the ass-hatchet with nothing but a paper-thin layer of lycra in-between. Sure, you may finish 20 minutes ahead of your buddy, but you will spend double that time applying Alocane to your chapped nether regions.
Unexpected upside: Skin balm becomes a new sponsor category for gran fondos.
2. You better weight for everyone else
Cycling is also a math equation. If there’s a climb, the ratio of your wattage relative to your weight determines whether you are the proverbial hammer or nail. Of course, a motorized bike blasts its rider to the top of the climb, no matter how heavy he (or she) may be. But what if the motorized rider was, like, SUPER heavy? Here’s my answer: mandatory weight vests for the motorheads. Just stop by your local gym or scuba diving shop and buy some wearable lead weights. Sure, they may be uncomfortable, but hey, it’s a light price to pay in order to race a cheater bike. And it’s not like a weight vest will totally slow you down. This guy won a Spartan race with one on!
Unexpected upside: Built-in body armor for those out-of-control motorheads.
3. Breathtaking riding required
Gym rats have a lot of great ideas for leveling the playing field with motorized riders. Have you ever seen those $90 training masks that purport to build your lung capacity by restricting your air intake? I know — seems like really sound science. Motorized riders like Fontayne are doing a fraction the effort as their competitors. So why not force them to simply take in a fraction of the oxygen? I’m sure these riders will accept the challenge. After all, they get to look really tough, like Bane from “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Unexpected upside: We inadvertently create a group of super-human athletes who can win bike races AND do push-ups!
So, to wrap things up, I’m all for allowing cyclists like Fontayne to race their motorized bicycles in sanctioned amateur events against those of us who prefer to pedal our bicycles, endure the pain, and win or lose based on the merits of our legs, lungs, and brains. So long as riders like Fontayne are willing to subject their bottoms to awful, terrible chafing, load themselves down with lead, and siphon off their airflow, then hey, it’s all good. If these riders aren’t willing to go there, then maybe they should stay the hell away from our sport.