FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — The iPad tablets cycling’s governing body is using to test bicycles for hidden motors is ineffective, says a report by international media.
The tablet the UCI has used repeatedly in top-level racing produces false positives that inspectors dismissed when encountered. Worse yet, the report by Stade 2 detailed how it fails to pick up hidden inductors in wheels.
Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera published the findings Saturday after its journalist visited the Fraunhofer Institute for Nondestructive Testing in Germany with television reporters from Stade 2 and ARD.
“Doctor Bernd Valeske inspected a bike slowly,” read the article. “Halfway down the seat tube, he stops, the display reads 10 out of 10 intensity. Is the cylindrical battery truly here?
“Valeske continues, and surprise, the tablet shows another alarm, 10 out of 10, at another point in the same tube. Then a third one in the cassette and a fourth in the down tube.”
Valeske put the frame under an X-ray that revealed the prohibited motor was only in the third location. The other alarms were just natural magnetic fields produced by the materials.
The article explained that the UCI’s inspectors will let the bike pass in the case of such false positives because they are in a rush to test so many bicycles at the start of races. At the Tour de France, 22 teams of nine riders each raced. Riders each have one or two spare bikes.
“They have 2,000 bikes to test,” the article quoted an unnamed WorldTour mechanic as saying. “They never once came back to us to reexamine a bike or ask to disassemble it.”
After claims that Fabian Cancellara used a motor in the 2010 classics, the UCI rolled out an X-ray machine at that year’s Tour. iPad tablets soon replaced the machine as the detector of choice.
The reporters in the latest report obtained one UCI tablet that it asked Valeske to use for the tests. He explained that it was a simply an iPad with an endoscope app developed by Endoscope-i and an external magnetic antenna.
Valeske passed the tablet over an induction magnet wheel that cost 20,000 euros. The display remained at zero as he passed the wheel and indicated it was “clean.” An X-ray machine, however, showed the plates and wires of the high-tech motor.
Such wheels can produce 60 watts. Hidden frame motors may generate 250. The UCI has only caught one cheating cyclist in its reported 42,500 tests over two years. Belgian Femke Van den Driessche, then 19, was caught using a bike with a motor in its tube at the 2016 cyclocross worlds.
“The people using our device in Sunday’s Stade 2 report had had no training,” the UCI responded. “We have, immediately following the report, offered to meet with them to demonstrate how to use our scanners effectively.”
Regarding other testing methods, the UCI added, “Thermal imaging has been used on a number of occasions and can be useful, but is limited as it would only detect a motor when in use, or shortly after use when a motor is warm.
“We also occasionally use X-ray, but this is relatively slow, requires a great deal of space to ensure public safety, and is subject to widely varying legislation from country to country.”
“Is it a true problem? I don’t think so,” four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome said Sunday after another day in the Vuelta a España leader’s red jersey.
“It’s a good thing that the UCI checks for the motors. They are doing so sometimes two or three times a day, and that’s good. It’s the same as the work they are doing for anti-doping. It’s good that they are doing the amount of tests they are doing, but I can’t believe that anyone would go to those lengths, but at least they are doing those checks.”