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UCI implements mobile X-ray trailer to check for hidden motors

The UCI introduces a new mobile trailer that will be a comprehensive way for officials to check for motors on-site at pro races.

GENEVA, Switzerland (AFP) — A mobile X-ray machine will be used from this weekend to help the UCI detect miniature motors in bicycles at top-level races, UCI president David Lappartient said on Wednesday.

A mobile X-ray machine mounted on a trailer “is a new tool that will allow riders’ bikes to be monitored” to help catch so-called mechanical doping cheats, Lappartient said.

Thermal cameras and magnetometric tablets will also continue to be used in the detection of the tiny motors, which are usually hidden in the bike’s frame and can, in theory, give a rider a crucial boost in power at specific moments during a race, such as riding into a headwind or on a tough climb.

Lappartient said the governing body has also not ruled out stripping down bikes but the X-ray machines should allow officials to detect motors without needing to take apart a bicycle.

“We hope to show that our riders don’t use motors. The aim is to show that everyone is battling on a level playing field,” said Lappartient from Geneva, where the UCI’s announcement was held.

The UCI president did not reveal at which event the X-ray machine would be used this weekend but former cyclist Jean-Christophe Péraud, who is heading a commission tackling technological fraud, says the machine will be widely used.

“We will be present with this technology across the five continents and in 18 countries,” said the 2014 Tour de France runner-up.

“We’ll cover 50 percent of the WorldTour calendar, but also other disciplines such as mountain biking and track cycling.”

Two men’s WorldTour races are taking place this weekend: Volta a Catalunya Saturday and Sunday in Spain and Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday in Belgium. The Women’s WorldTour also takes on Gent-Wevelgem March 25.

The X-ray machine, which Péraud said allows a monitor to “read into bicycles like reading an open book,” has been developed by VJ Technologies, a company that has been in partnership with the UCI since 1987.

But the UCI only has one machine.

There had long been suspicions of miniature motors being used in bikes but it wasn’t until 2016 that one was found in a racing bicycle.

Femke Van den Driessche was caught out at the junior world cyclocross championships, an offense which saw the Belgian national junior champion receive a six-year ban.

In October 2017, a 43-year-old amateur cyclist was snared in a targeted sting operation and caught riding a motorized bicycle in a competition in France before admitting to using the bike in five races over the previous
three months.

A 53-year-old Italian, Alessandro Andreoli, was also caught out in 2017 at a race in Italy following a tip-off to organizers.

A thermal camera had been used to identify a motor in his bike, yet despite initially admitting to his offense, he later pleaded his innocence.