Cycling commentators have been speculating about the possibility of electric motors being used in racing bicycles for years.
With the advent of newer lightweight, quiet, and compact electric motors that can provide up to 200W of electric assist, there are good reasons to worry, yet so far, no electric assist systems on racing bicycles have been discovered – until today, that is.
According to the Union Cycliste Internationale, the world’s largest race sanctioning body, officials have detained the bicycle of Belgian under-23 cyclocross competitor Femke Van den Driessche, one of the favorites to win the title, after her bike experienced suspicious mechanical troubles.
According to journalist Maarten Vangramberen, officials used a tablet-based scanner to examine the bike, and the results of this test caused the bike to be taken away for further study. Then, Vangramberen states, “when the saddle was removed, there were electrical cables in the seat tube. When they wanted to remove the bottom bracket, which is normally not difficult, they couldn’t because the crank was stuck. Inside there was a motor.”
Eager to deflect blame, the competitor’s father says that the bike in question was not used in competition.
“It’s not Femke’s bike. 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. Femke has absolutely not used that bike in the race. We are strongly affected by what’s happened. Femke is totally upside-down.”
According to UCI rules, “motor doping” is punishable by disqualification, a suspension at least six months, and a fine of up to 200,000 Swiss francs ($195,000 USD). A team found guilty of motor doping could also face a suspension and a fine as large as 1 million Swiss francs ($977,000 USD).
Though we don’t in any way condone cheating in bike racing, we should point out that for anyone looking for an off-the-shelf product to cheat in bike races, the 29 lb. Coboc eCycle is the way to go.