The French cyclist caught using a hidden motor in a Category 3 race at the weekend has claimed he is not the only rider using the illegal technology.
The rider, identified in the French media as 43-year-old plasterer Cyril Fontayne, also insists he wasn’t trying to obtain an advantage over his rivals.
Instead, he maintains he was trying to feel more comfortable on his bike as he recovered from back problems, reports 20minutes.fr.
Fontayne had been competing in the Grand Prix de Saint-Michel-de-Double in the Dordogne on Sunday, an event organised by his club, SA Mussidan.
He had been in the sights of France’s national anti-doping agency, the Agence française de lutte contre le dopage (AFLD), for some time after fellow riders raised suspicions about the sudden improvement in his results.
After abandoning the race, which he was leading, due to a puncture, he attempted to drive home but the AFLD’s regional representative, the former pro cyclist Christophe Bassons, drove after him and the hidden motor was discovered.
The cyclist has subsequently admitted to a state prosecutor that he had used the bike in five races since 21 August, winning 500 euro in prize money.
As a result, he may face charges of fraud or attempted fraud, with the Gendarmerie continuing to investigate the case. The case is also likely to result in sporting sanctions
He said that he had bought the frame, which appears to be a copy of one from Lapierre, from a Chinese website.
The motor, which Bassons says is a Vivax Assist, was sourced online in France. Together, the frame and motor cost Fontayne 3,000 euro.
He claimed that he bought the motor because he was suffering from sciatica and recovering from a herniated disc that forced him to give up cycling for three months.
“I did it to feel less pain at the end of races,” he told the radio station France Bleu Périgord on Monday, claiming that he wasn’t using the motor to win.
“I knew that if someone saw me, noticed it, I risked being suspended, but well, I am at the end of my career, I’m 43, I didn’t want to race any more, I wanted to enjoy my life with my wife and young daughter.”
He acknowledged that riders he raced against would view him as a cheat.
“But,” he insisted, “I wasn’t selling drugs, I didn’t kill a child … I put a motor in my bike to feel more comfortable while racing.”
He added: “They’ll make an example of me, but I think this will be a good thing for cycling because I’m not the only one doing it.”
It’s just the third time a concealed motor has been discovered in competition, and the first time one has been found being used in France.
In August, a hidden motor was found at an amateur race in Italy, while the highest profile case to date relates to the one discovered in a bike belonging to under-23 Belgian rider Femke Van den Driessche at the UCI World Cyclo-cross Championships in 2016.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.