Mechanical doping: Suspicions raised over Giro TT stage winner’s bike change

French TV voices concerns over shock winner Primoz Roglic’s bike switch

The French TV programme Stade 2, which has claimed that hidden motors are being used in the professional peloton, has raised suspicions about a bike change made by LottoNL-Jumbo’s Primoz Roglic shortly before he started – and won – the Stage 9 individual time trial at last month’s Giro d’Italia.

The Slovenian rider, 26, is a former junior world ski jumping champion and switched to cycling in 2012, joining LottoNL-Jumbo at the start of this season, finishing fifth overall at the Volta ao Algarve in February.

He was a surprise second to Giant-Alpecin’s Tom Dumoulin at the 9.8km Stage 1 time trial in Apeldoorn that opened the Giro d'Italia, and a week later won the longer, 40.5km Stage 9 in Tuscany’s Chianti Classico wine-growing area.

Hidden motors have been one of the hottest topics in professional cycling since one was found concealed in the bike of Belgian under-23 rider Femke Van Den Driessche at the cyclo-cross world championships in January.

That motor, on a spare bike that had been prepared for her, was found by UCI officials scanning for magnetic waves, although in April a Stade 2 report insisted that thermal imaging was better to discover concealed motors, and raised suspicions that several were in use in races in Italy in March including Strade Bianche.

> Hidden motors used at Strade Bianche, claims French TV

According to the France Televisions sports magazine show’s latest report, among the suspicious images was one of those was of a bike ridden by Roglic in the one-day race in Tuscany, as shown in this tweet,

The initial Stade 2 investigation was carried out in partnership with Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera and one of the Milan-based daily’s journalists, Marco Bonarrigo, appeared in last night’s report.

He said he had been present at the start of the Stage 9 time trial at the Giro d’Italia when a UCI official ruled just two minutes before he set off that the bike Roglic intended to use did not comply with regulations.

According to a post on Roglic’s website on the evening of the stage, the commissaire had told him his bike was “too long” – although as Bonarrigo notes in his own report, it seems “incredible” that such as situation would arise with one of the sport’s top teams.

He managed to find a replacement with just 20 seconds to spare before his start time, although as he wrote on his website, the saddle was too low, he had no water bottles and 10 kilometres into the stage, his Pioneer power meter flew off his handlebars.

Despite those setbacks, the LottoNL-Jumbo rider won by 10 seconds from IAM Cycling’s Matthias Brandle.

While it was a surprise victory – the longest individual time trial the 26-year-old had previously ridden was just 10km – he was helped by a start time that meant he rode mainly in the dry, while those who set out on the course later were hampered by heavy rain.

Among the other riders to race in the dry, however, was the favourite for the stage – former world champion Fabian Cancellara of Trek-Segafredo, who was fourth, 28 seconds down on Roglic.

It’s unclear whether bikes were scanned for concealed motors on that particular day, although as Stade 2 notes, with no such control at the end, a bike switch immediately prior to setting off could be one way of evading the commissaires.

Stade 2, which last week claimed UCI technical manager Mark Barfield had tipped off electric assist road bike manfacturer Typhoon to a police operation on last year's Tour de France against mechanical doping,  said it had contacted LottoNL-Jumbo for a comment but had received no reply.

> UCI tech chief tipped off bike firm on police op

> Mechanical doping - all you need to know

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.

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