On Friday a Lille court sentenced two teenagers to 18 months in prison for their role in the theft of 22 bikes belonging to the Italian national track team.
The men convicted for their part in the robbery, which took place during October’s UCI Track World Championships in Roubaix, were identified as Franko T., an 18 year old from France, and Valerijo H., a 19 year old Italian.
The duo were part of a gang which raided a minivan parked at the Italian team’s hotel on the night of 22 October, two days before the end of the Track Worlds. Despite security at the hotel, which was deliberately chosen by the Italian delegation for its monitored private car park, the thieves departed with equipment worth up to £500,000.
Four of the stolen bikes were special gold-painted Pinarellos ridden by the nation’s Olympic and World Championship winning men’s pursuit squad, fronted by Filippo Ganna, and valued at £25,000 each, while many featured titanium 3D-printed handlebars alone worth £8,500.
The haul was discovered by Romanian police less than a week later as part of a large-scale anti-drug bust. Police caught the criminals, who were in the process of selling the bikes, during a raid on 14 properties in Vrancea County which also uncovered stolen televisions, mobile phones, drugs and around £2,300 in cash. 20 people were initially arrested as part of this operation, and four were retained in custody.
According to Le Journal de Saône-et-Loire, French investigators were able to identify Franko T.’s fingerprints, while phone records were traced to two houses in Lille where police found packaging in the Italian squad’s azzurri colours, a van used in the burglary, and a coffee maker identical to one stolen from the team’s van. The defendants’ lawyers claimed they were “amateurs” and “scapegoats” who had been persuaded to unload and store the bikes by a more organised and professional criminal gang.
Despite the theft, Italy were able to continue racing during the final weekend of the Roubaix worlds as the team’s remaining bikes were stored in the velodrome. Elia Viviani’s win in the elimination race, two days after the burglary, capped off a successful if disruptive week for the squad as they left Roubaix with four golds, three silvers and three bronzes.
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.