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Former cycling film actor accused of motor doping at French stage race dramatically flees as teammate knocks down race director with van

In a barely believable chain of events, it's emerged that Giovambattista Iera - a former elite cyclist and respected restaurant co-founder who counts Mark Cavendish among his Instagram followers - has been banned from his team for "intolerable behaviour"...

You may have heard the terms 'mechanical doping' or 'motor doping' in the context of cycling, where a cheating rider tricks out their bike with some form of assistance to reduce their effort needed to pedal, thus gaining an illegal advantage... but how about (alleged) motor doping committed by a former elite cyclist and actor in the classic cycling film 'Le Vélo de Ghislain Lambert', who is seemingly pally with Astana team staff and riders, and whose hasty and dramatic attempt to flee interrogation saw his teammate run over a race director with his van? It's a new one on us. 

It's hard to know where to start, but we'll try to unravel this in some kind of order. The drama began some time before the final stage of Les Routes de l'Oise, a four-stage amateur road race held annually in northern France, when riders reported hearing unusual noises in the peloton. The noises were said to be coming from the bike of bib number 88, 53-year-old Giovambattista Iera of the AC Bellaingeoise team, and pictures circulating on social media appear to show a bonus wire popping out of his Lapierre bike. 

The race director, Frédéric Lenormand, told local press: “As early as Saturday, there were suspicions of mechanical doping concerning this rider, which were brought to our attention by riders in the peloton.

“Suspicions were confirmed on Sunday. This Monday morning [the final day of racing], we wanted to check his bike. He was at the back of the pack. He got back on his bike and fled, we chased after him. By the time we got to him he had loaded the bike into his van.” 

What happened next was far from comical unlike the rest of this debacle, as one of Iera’s teammates is accused of driving with Lenormand on the bonnet of his van for up to 300 metres, leaving the shocked race director "scared for [his] life" and with an injured knee and ankle, before the teammate (who is also believed to be Iera’s coach) eventually shook him off the van and drove away.

"I didn’t want him to get away", said Lenormand.

It's reported that Iera was sought by local police, and members of his team were questioned this week over what happened. Eventually Iera handed himself in on Tuesday, facing charges of attempted fraud and aggravated assault.

According to local police, and reported by Le Bonhomme Picard, Iera has since been exonerated in relation to the incident involving Lenormand.

His teammate, however, has been charged with aggravated wilful violence against the race director, and will appear in court in January 2025.

The public prosecutor in Beauvais also confirmed that a separate investigation is ongoing into Iera’s alleged mechanical fraud, which could lead to a potential five-year prison sentence and maximum fine of €375,000.

“The procedure relating to the attempted fraud linked to the use of a disputed bicycle has been separated and will continue in the preliminary form in particular in order to recover this material, to carry out the expertise, and to characterise the involvement of each person in the commission of the offence,” the prosecutor said this week.

AC Bellaingeoise were also banned from the race, with all results from other team members chalked off. 

A statement from the race organisers said: "Following suspicion of mechanical doping of bib number 88 Giovambattista Iera, the organisation asked to have his bike checked.

"This person immediately left the starting line to return to his truck to leave the scene. The vehicle endangered people in the organisation.

"This rider's team, AC Bellaingeoise, was excluded from the Routes de l'Oise."

In response, the team's management were quick to deny theirs and other riders' knowledge of any cheating within the team, manager Daphnée Bos telling actu.fr: "It’s a real betrayal. He fled his responsibilities and we bear the shame. 

"Even if the Routes de l'Oise is an important cycling event, we did not think that he would adopt this intolerable behaviour for an amateur race. 

“The rest of the team is in a terrible state.”

giovambattista lera (Instagram)
(Instagram)

Bos said Iera and his Venezuelan coach were "immediately excluded" from the team following the bizarre incident which, on top of the charges brought against him by the French authorities, could prove damaging considering Iera's connections within the sport of cycling and outside of it.

Now a restaurant owner, who co-founded the Italian Trattoria restaurant chain with a number of premises in the US, Iera lives in Miami according to his Strava account, which is now littered with sarcastic comments underneath his latest upload, Saturday's stage of Les Routes de l'Oise. 

Iera's Instagram account, which is now set to private, reveals he has connections to a number of pro cyclists, particularly staff and team members at Astana Qazaqstan, who he has been pictured riding with.

Ironically, Iera was also a supporting cast member in the classic 2001 cycling film Le Vélo de Ghislain Lambert, in which he played Fabrice Bouillon under the name Jean-Baptiste Iera. The film tells the tale of a Belgian cyclist born on the same day as Eddy Merckx, who goes to extraordinary lengths to be a top pro and emulate his hero. If Iera did do what he was accused of doing, it would have made for an interesting sub-plot...  

Vuelta motor doping check (@lavuelta/Twitter)
A bike gets checked for pesky motors at the Vuelta a España

It's not the first time we've heard rumours or reported on actual evidence of mechanical doping in the amateur or professional ranks of course (although this one surely tops the lot): memorable cases include former Belgian cyclocross racer Femke Van den Driessche, the only top-tier pro to be caught when a concealed motor was found in her bike for the 2016 World Championships, and a 73-year-old who was caught with a hidden motor in his bike's hub at a French hill climb event, propelling him to a lofty 16th place. You can fill your boots in our feature titled a brief history of motor doping in cycling, which is surely now due an update. 

Regarding the peculiar case of Mr Iera... surely a film needs to be made about it? 

Arriving at road.cc in 2017 via 220 Triathlon Magazine, Jack dipped his toe in most jobs on the site and over at eBikeTips before being named the new editor of road.cc in 2020, much to his surprise. His cycling life began during his students days, when he cobbled together a few hundred quid off the back of a hard winter selling hats (long story) and bought his first road bike - a Trek 1.1 that was quickly relegated to winter steed, before it was sadly pinched a few years later. Creatively replacing it with a Trek 1.2, Jack mostly rides this bike around local cycle paths nowadays, but when he wants to get the racer out and be competitive his preferred events are time trials, sportives, triathlons and pogo sticking - the latter being another long story.  

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7 comments

Avatar
Terry Hutt | 4 weeks ago
4 likes

Nice article Jack - you're right, there is a lot to unravel here. Bad behavior made worse by a panicky cover up. The most important thing here is, I think, to make it clear that motor doping is hard to hide and if you try it you will probably be caught.

The fact he was caught by both the sound and the extra wire should be a warning to anyone else thinking about cheating like this.

One thing needs asking. Did he motor dope while training with his team to stay with them? If so, how did they not notice?

Avatar
Destroyer666 | 4 weeks ago
3 likes

Respectfully, what seems to have made this story hard to unravel, was not because of what actually happened, but because the author himself wanted to cram probably everything he found out about the mr.Iera into this article and consequently stuggled to grasp what is the main story.

Still, the end result is ok.

Avatar
andystow | 4 weeks ago
4 likes

So the electric bike was detected amongst the "acoustic bikes" because of its acoustic emissions?

Avatar
Laz | 4 weeks ago
3 likes

it's an incredible discovery when one learns how shallow some people are...it's like they are a mere projection, without any substance at all, all their actions designed only to see themselves reflected on others as if without that they would not exist at all. a shadow of a man

Avatar
Blackthorne replied to Laz | 3 weeks ago
2 likes

Your comment reminds me of the time when Richard Hammond (of top gear) travelled to America to visit his hero, stuntman and daredevil evel kneivel. When the finally met for a chat, evel old and frail, shuffled out in his signature performance outfit. Hammond tried to ask him about his life, motivations, etc, expecting to meet the 'real' evel behind the persona. but the man before him was still in full acting mode despite his advanced years. There was no 'real' evel behind the curtain; just a narcissist boasting about his achievements and offering no introspection. 

Avatar
Flâneur | 4 weeks ago
0 likes

A bizarre tale.

"in which he played Fabrice Bouillon under his unmarried name of Jean-Baptiste Iera"

It's a small point, but surely that should be "his translated name"?

Avatar
Jack Sexty replied to Flâneur | 4 weeks ago
3 likes

Sorry that's been changed, bit of a translation fail. There was quite a lot to unpack here!

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