MILAN (VN) — Spaniard Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) cannot shake rumors that he used a motorized bike to help win the Giro d’Italia. During the race and now, four days after the Italian grand tour ended with Contador in the pink jersey, the stories still rev loudly.
Being the leader of the race for 16 days, Contador’s bike was targeted more than others in checks. Other incidents also sparked rumors that “El Pistolero” may have ridden to the podium’s top step in Milan on more than strength.
Contador stopped and changed bikes ahead of the stage 5 Abetone finish when he first took the pink jersey, and again before demolishing his rivals on the stage 16 Mortirolo climb en route to Aprica. Contador said he punctured his rear tire on the Aprica stage and took a wheel from teammate Ivan Basso, but French newspaper L’Equipe reported differently this week.
“The Spaniard won his second Giro, ahead of Fabio Aru, altered by ‘fake’ puncture on the descent of Aprica Tuesday,” L’Equipe wrote, according to AS.
“Contador told how Basso gave him his wheel. But the Italian, of course, should have remained on the edge of the road with the wheel in his hand, but he resumed the race without waiting for the team’s technical car. You see it on RAI TV, where Basso tightens the rear wheel in his bike.
“It was confirmed by an official with organizer RCS Sport present behind the peloton, ‘Basso fixed it himself. Contador, therefore, did not have a puncture, he just changed the wheel.’”
Contador explained that a nail had caused the puncture. Team owner, Oleg Tinkov posted a photograph of the tire on Twitter that evening.
If Contador was using a motor, in this case the assumption is that it was in the wheel. It is unclear if the UCI checked his bike after the stage to Aprica. This video shows the governing body checking it following stage 17 to Lugano, and a press release confirmed a control after stage 18 to Verbania.
At a party in his hometown near Madrid on Monday, Contador said, “It’s seems ridiculous to me that someone would think that you’d put a motor on your bike at the professional level.”
After the Abetone stage, Contador said he changed his bike to use different materials.
“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,” Contador said.
Former professionals Greg LeMond and Mario Cipollini said the UCI should not allow bike changes unless a rider has a serious mechanical breakdown.
“It’s bad for the image of cycling, because people think there’s a motor in it,” Cipollini said.
Contador’s team has been the center of controversy as the motor rumors revved. In 2010, when the squad was named Saxo Bank, critics said Fabian Cancellara used a motor in the classics. The team was one of those controlled in the raids at the end of Milano-Sanremo this March.
Tinkoff-Saxo and its bike sponsor Specialized made light of the situation on the last day of the Giro and provided Contador with a motorized bike that he used to ride to the signature podium ahead of the start.