The UCI has confirmed it is investigating a 19-year old Belgian cyclo-crosser for "technological fraud". She is alleged to have raced on a bicycle with a hidden motor at the Women's Under-23 race of the 2016 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in Heusden-Zolder.
The UCI added a new clause covering the use of hidden motor to its regulations last year. There have been rumours for some years that top pros have been using such motors. They add weight to a bike, but also some short-term oomph. A number of such motors – such as the Vivax Assist of Austrian – have had official booths at the Eurobike trade show for the past few years.
In an interview with Belgian TV station Sporza, Peter Van den Abeele of the UCI, said the bike was caught thanks to a new testing regime developed to spot "mechanical doping."
Abeele said: “This is the first time [the UCI has] established a technical fraud, and for us that’s a downer. Most people are bewildered.
Sporza reported that when the bicycle's saddle was removed, there were electrical cables in the seat tube. The 19-year old rider was racing for the Kleur Op Maat-Nodrugs cycling team, which normally rides on Wilier bicycles.
Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad quoted the rider's father saying that the bike in question was a borrowed one.
He said: “Someone from her team, who sometimes trains with her, brought the bike to the pit. But it was never the intention that she would ride it. … [She] has absolutely not used that bike in the race."
John Bradley, editor in chief of Velonews tweeted:
"When this hits major news outlets, people won't say "she's only 19." They'll say "on top of drugs, cyclists use motors, too." Huge damage."