Brian Cookson is at the Tour of Qatar this week....

Riders say UCI’s ramped-up motor testing is warranted

The UCI has promised to step up its efforts after a motor was discovered hidden in a bike at the recent cyclocross worlds.

DOHA, Qatar (VN) — Bring on improved testing for motors, say riders after UCI president Brian Cookson announced Tuesday that the governing body would consider more invasive testing.

It was discovered that Belgian Femke Van den Driessche had a motor in her bike during the under-23 race at the recent cyclocross world championships. Cookson, who parachuted into the Persian Gulf for the Tour of Qatar on Tuesday, said the UCI is “taking this seriously.”

“It needs to happen because it’s probably happened in the past and they missed it a few times,” Dimension Data’s Mark Renshaw told VeloNews.

“I’ve never seen anyone win by 10 lengths in front of Mark Cavendish. It’s fair to say that we’ve never seen it in a sprint finish. Anything can happen though, it wouldn’t surprise me with technology now. It can be so advanced that even if it was 25 watts over an hour or two period, it is quite a lot in the mountains.”

The UCI is reportedly using a new tablet application that allows its CSI-type controllers to secretly detect electromagnetic frequencies.

“What we’ve been trying to do is to trial and develop equipment that will be easier to use and will allow us to scan more bikes more quickly and at more races,” Cookson said.

“If we need to go to a situation where every bike has to be pre-examined before a race, including the bikes on the team cars, then maybe this is something that we have to look at. We have much better technology now and we can do the more invasive tests.”

Some riders had dismissed motors as science fiction fantasy prior to the 19-year-old Van den Driessche being busted. Since then, the issue has become much more real.

“It could always happen, so it’s good that they are doing these small tests,” Belgian and BMC Racing rider Greg Van Avermaet said. “I had them control my bike at races. I think if they do that once or twice then it should be enough to scare others not to do it. It’s money well spent. It’s good that they can now check it in an easy and quick way.”

Said Astana’s Andrea Guardini: “It’s the right fight. If they have been used, then they were probably used years ago when no one thought about it. Now they are talking about it too much. I think a potential user would be scared off, but it’s worth it that the UCI is testing.”

BMC coach Marco Pinotti said it makes more sense that a motor was allegedly used in cyclocross, where teams are much smaller. He said it would take too much of an orchestrated effort for teams at the WorldTour and Pro Continental levels to cheat in such a way.

Van den Driessche faces a fine of 20,000 to 200,000 Swiss francs ($19,700 to 197,000) and a minimum six-month suspension if she is found guilty. The UCI’s disciplinary commission is examining her case now.

“Obviously, I don’t want to say anything that might prejudice the case, which is in fact sub-judice,” Cookson said. “But this is a very serious development and we are handling it with the utmost care.”