ANNECY, France (VN) — When Toms Skujins learned that a video clip was circulating on social media amid accusations that his bicycle contained an illegal motor, his initial reaction was to laugh. After Skujins saw how many times the video had been circulated on Twitter, his sentiment rapidly changed.
“It was hilarious at the beginning. I wasn’t worried because I have nothing to worry about,” Skujins told VeloNews. “When I started seeing how many people looked like they were believing it, then I thought it was sad.”
Notice that Skujins said “sad,” and not “angry.” The reaction, Skujins said, was confirmation that cycling fans still expect nefarious activity from professional riders in situations that are opaque or otherwise confusing.
“The only conclusion that a lot of people can make is that somebody is doping again,” Skujins said. “I understand that the sport has been messed up. I just wish people would not just jump to the worst conclusion straightaway.”
The video clip in question emerged after Saturday’s stage 8 from Dreux to Amiens. Skujins was caught in a mass pileup with 17km remaining that also took down Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates), Tony Martin (Katusha) and others. TV cameras panned across the aftermath of the crash, catching Skujins and the other riders picking themselves off of the pavement.
In one shot Skujins stands holding his bicycle toward the camera, with the rear wheel obscured by the bike frame. As Skujins spins to his right, the camera shows his rear wheel spinning at a fast rate, seemingly on its own.
“Care to explain this?” reads one tweet with a clip of the video.
“Toms Skujins mechanical Doping in TDF2018????! Check it out!” reads the title of a YouTube clip of the video.
“Was he ‘Motordoping’ at the Tour de France? Here is a good link to watch it. Why is his rear wheel spinning?” reads another tweet.
Skujins said that no, he was not riding with an illegal motor. The cameras caught images his wheel spinning, however, they missed images of him turning his cranks with his hands to accelerate the wheel in the seconds before the clip. After he crashed, Skujins said the chain came off of his front chainring. He placed the chain back on the cog and then spun the cranks to get the bike into gear.
“The video where they accused me is where the wheel is already spinning,” Skujins said. “Before that I’ve already used my fingers to put the chain back on the chainring and spun the cranks.”
Wheel was 100% moving before he lifted bike off ground with 2 hands, look at the video. Much ado over nothing. Skujins being badly treated by kangaroo court on twitter pic.twitter.com/U7PTGr3TeT
— colie gorman (@gorman_colin) July 16, 2018
A subsequent video, posted by Velon, appears to validate Skujins’s description of the ordeal. That video was shot by a camera mounted to the saddle of Timo Roosen’s (LottoNL-Jumbo) bicycle. In the video, Skujins can be seen adjusting his chain before elevating his bicycle, turning the cranks, and spinning his rear wheel.
Skujins said he did not argue his case with critics on social media, other than to explain to one person the details of the video.
“Sometimes you need to use common sense in these situations,” he said. “As some people have said on Twitter, this is guys in tinfoil hats making judgments.”