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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary

My doctor told me to stop having intimate dinners for four. Unless there are three other people. - Orson Welles

Upcoming Racing:

Technological bike doping, still more

For the last couple of days there has been a lot of attention paid to the bike that Belgian under-23 cyclo-cross racer Femke Van den Driessche was caught using at the world championships. This was the first time a rider has been found to be racing with a bike containing a hidden motor. L'Equipe compared the moment to the arrest of Willy Voet at the 1998 Tour de France. That arrest revealed first that the Festina team was seriously doping and later, that most of the rest of the peloton was doing just the same.

Van den Driessche has tearfully denied knowing that the bike had a motor in it, saying she was given the bike late in the race and that it wasn't hers. The bike's owner, according to the Belgian paper Het Nieuwsblad, has stepped forward. Nico van Muylder said that it was his bike and the Van den Driessche knew nothing about the motor.

You can read her explanation and denial here.

La Gazzetta dello Sport published a lengthy explanation about riders using hidden motors, called "bike doping".

La Gazzetta said that the bike Van den Driessche was using was nothing new, that the motor hidden in the seat tube driving the crank is old school. Such a bike assist can kick out 50 to 500 watts and costs about 20 thousand Euros.

Motorized bottom bracket

Old school motorized bottom bracket

There is better stuff for a competitor with a big checking account: electromagnetic wheels. The article has a picture of the system, which is said to cost 200,000 Euros and can give the rider a 20-60 watt assist. Deep carbon rims are said to work best with this system.

Motorized wheel

Now, how are the magnets that must be somewhere in the frame (the stator of what surely is an electric motor) to pull the charged wheel around mounted and hidden? La Gazzetta doesn't say. I'm sure there will be lots more about this very soon.

Eddy Merckx has called for a lifetime ban to be imposed on riders who are caught using "doped" bikes. But, Merckx failed a doping control in the 1969 Giro d'Italia. He has spent the rest of his career claiming that the dope positive (for fencamfamine) was simply incorrect and unjust. Now suppose someone accidently used another rider's bike? Lifetime ban if Merckx could have his way.

Yet, Merckx was allowed to ride the Tour de France that same July after the penalty for his positive was lifted. Would he deny that same privilege to another? Let's be careful here.

Back to news and opinion index page for links to archived stories | Commentary