Chris Froome wants the UCI to conduct more regular equipment checks to catch cyclists who are using motor-assisted bicycles.
After decades of struggling to combat illegal drug use, cycling was dealt a fresh blow on Saturday when stewards at the world cyclo-cross championships found an electric motor concealed in the frame of the bicycle being ridden by Femke Van den Driessche, a Belgian teenager. Den Driessche insists that the bicycle belonged to a friend and was mistakenly given to her by her mechanic.
Although rumours about motor-driven bicycles have existed for several years, until last weekend none had been discovered despite checks being conducted by stewards at most major races. Froome’s own machines have been tested at least a dozen times, including at last year’s Tour de France, which he won.
“It’s a concern that I’ve had, something I’ve brought up with the UCI independent commission when I sat down with them and said, ‘Listen, from my point of view there are these rumours, it would be my advice that the UCI implements controls and measures to start checking bikes more regularly’,” Froome said.
The UCI has promised to step up testing for motors – which is usually conducted using an electromagnetic field detector and a small camera inserted into the frame through the bottom bracket. Froome says that he would welcome the additional scrutiny.
“I think they are taking the threat seriously and hopefully this will mean that they only increase the number of checks that they do on the world tour level,” he said.
Speaking seperately, in Dubia, Bradley Wiggins expressed his disbelief that a rider would even contemplate using a motorised bike and confirmed that his bike had been totally stripped to check for illegal machinery after his successful hour record attempt.
Wiggins put the use of motors on a par with blood doping: He said: “I think they’re both as bad as each other but I can understand why some people would choose to dope in terms of what’s to be gained from it financially but to win a race because you’ve got an extra 200 watts in your bottom bracket…”
Froome was speaking before the first stage of the Herald Sun Tour, which starts tomorrow in Victoria, Australia.
The five-day race will be his first of the season and his first since the Vuelta a Espana last year. He will be joined by Ian Boswell, Sebastian Henao, Peter Kennaugh, Salvatore Puccio and Luke Rowe.
The only other WorldTour teams racing are BMC and Orica-GreenEdge. One Pro Cycling, the team co-founded by Matt Prior, and JLT Condor, who are comprised entirely of British riders, are also involved.
“It’s been almost five months since my last race so I’m not too sure what to expect,” Froome said. “Training has gone well throughout the winter and I’ve had a good block of training down in Adelaide with some of the guys from the Tour Down Under.
“I’d looked at them coming down here, and they’d always said it was a really good period. You can always get your training done with the weather being so favorable here compared to Europe, so for me it was a no-brainer.”