“Motors are no longer a rumour - they exist,” says Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme, who believes that mechanical doping is the biggest challenge facing professional cycling at the moment.
Prudhomme, who also oversees the Ardennes Classics La Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, both owned like the Tour by ASO, was speaking to Belgian newspaper La Derniere Heure.
Asked about the relationship between the UCI and ASO – the French business said late last year that it planned to pull its races from the WorldTour calendar – he said that that combating motor doping had to take priority.
“I think we have enough of a battle on our hands to work together to restore credibility, to fight against this fraud, this blatant scam, pure and simple.”
Asked whether it was really that serious, Prudhomme replied: “After doping, it’s the reality. Two steps forward, three steps back.
“It’s taken years of effort and still not all of it [doping] has been stamped out so cycling can once again be a discipline we can think of alongside others – and now we have this new blow that falls on us.
While the use of concealed motors in pro races has been rumoured since 2010, the discovery of one in a bike at the World Cyclo-cross championships in Belgium in January – the first such finding – has thrown the spotlight back onto them.
Prudhomme insisted: “Motors aren’t a rumour any more, they exist. We need to fight them together, not fight each other.
“We need to defend the vast majority of riders, we need to get to the bottom of it, we need to take radical steps, the toughest possible,” continued Prudhomme, who pointed out that he had already asked for urgent action in a letter written on behalf of the race organisers’ association, the AIOCC.
His comments come days after French TV show Stade 2 broadcast the results of an investigation conducted jointly with Italian newspaper La Corriere della Sera that claimed hidden motors, detected using thermal imaging technology, had been discovered at races in March including Strade Bianche.
The professional riders’ association, the CPA, has called for lifetime bans for riders caught using concealed motors, while ex-world champion Philippe Gilbert’s agent says that he believes they have been used in the pro peloton since before 2010.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.