With a mix of shock and utter disgust, the world of professional bike racing suffered yet another blow to its already oft sullied credibility when the sport’s governing body busted a young Belgian racer this past weekend for racing a bike outfitted with an electric motor. Under-23 racer Femke van den Driessche’s bike was pulled from the pits at the world cyclocross championships in Zolder, Belgium, then pulled apart. Inside the bottom bracket area officials discovered a mishmash of wires and a motor, according to a report by the French news agency AFP.
Van den Driessche quickly denied any wrongdoing, claiming the Wilier race bike belonged to a friend and was accidentally mistaken for her’s and brought to the race pits. But few seemed to be buying that story, especially considering her brother is currently serving a doping suspension. Perhaps cheating runs in the family the thinking goes.
Italian bike maker Wilier is also upset, releasing a statement soon after threatening legal action against the racer and her support staff, who likely were complicit in the fraud.
UCI rules state that such an offense merits a penalty of up to six months suspension and 200,000 Swiss franc fine, but many in the sport were calling for a lifetime ban.
Adding to the intrigue is that Van den Driessche posted some stellar (and some are contending suspiciously surprising) results earlier this season, including a win at the European Championships and a second place at the testing Koppenbergcross, where she out-climbed some of the world’s best (and more experienced) racers. Check out the video below for what could be some fairly compelling evidence to either the emergence of the next great cyclocross racing star — or one of the sport’s biggest cheats.
UCI President Brian Cockson weighed in, calling the incident a clear case of “technological fraud. There was a concealed motor,” he said at a press conference according to the AFP. “We have heard some stories for a long time now about the possibility of this. We have been alive to a potential way that people might cheat and we have been testing a number of bikes and a number of events for several months.”
And if you’re wondering how a motor hidden in a bike might help a rider, multi-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond has you covered in this video shot by the Australian cycling website CyclingTips. Looks just like a regular bike, until…
Until now, the idea that someone might actually stoop to this level of treachery seemed absurd. But hey, if some racers are willing to inject all manner of substances inside their bodies, why not inject their bikes with a little extra horsepower. Vroom vroom!