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Motors revving at the Giro d’Italia? The UCI investigates

SESTRI LEVANTE, Italy (VN) — Motor-powered bicycles remain a concern at the highest level of cycling. Sunday, similar to the daily anti-doping tests, the UCI moved in after Sky’s Italian Elia Viviani sprinted into Genoa’s historic city center. Making their way through the thousands of fans and Italians congratulating Viviani, inspectors took his bike and four others to check for motors.

The UCI’s inspectors tagged and controlled the first three finishers’ bikes — Viviani, Moreno Hofland (LottoNL-Jumbo), and André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) — as well as Bartlomiej Matysiak’s (CCC Sprandi-Polkowice), and Paolo Tiralongo’s (Astana) bikes. They cleared all five, from Viviani’s black Pinarello to Tiralongo’s white Specialized.

In Sestri Levante on Monday, they were free to do the same.

If caught with a hidden motor, a rider could face a fine of 20,000 to 200,000 Swiss francs (or $21,411 to 214,164) and a minimum six-month suspension. The UCI added a technical fraud rule to its discipline and procedures regulations January 30.

Part of the rule reads, “Any presence of a bicycle that does not comply with the provisions, within or on the margins of a cycling competition, constitutes a technological fraud by the team and the rider.”

The findings detailed in the 227-page Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) report released in mid-March only confirmed the UCI’s move. Among the pages in the report that X-rayed cycling’s EPO era was one section dedicated to motors.

“The Commission was told of varying efforts to cheat the technical rules, including using motors in frames. This particular issue was taken seriously, especially by top riders, and was not dismissed as being isolated,” read the report.

“Other forms of cheating were explained, relating to frames’ construction, saddle specifications, and the wearing of illegal clothing and apparel. The Commission was told that funding streams to examine such allegations from regulatory, technical, and investigative perspectives are limited and even being reduced. This is not ideal, given technical cheating may be emerging as a more-significant avenue for illicit gains than ever before.”

Soon after the report was published, the UCI made a show of force in the Milano-Sanremo classic on March 22. The checks in Sanremo, which is where the Giro began Saturday, were much more sweeping. The inspectors tagged and controlled 37 bicycles, including the top-three finishers, Fabian Cancellara’s Trek, and Mark Cavendish’s Specialized.

They removed the seatposts and cranks, but released the bicycles without any report of problems. The same goes for the Giro d’Italia, so far.

If caught, the fine is high. Not only is the rider at risk, but so is the team. The new rule also allows the UCI to fine the rider’s team from 100,000 to 1,000,000 Swiss francs or $107,058 to $1,070,583.

It is not a new topic. Suspicion arose once when Fabian Cancellara dominated the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix in 2010, and again when Canadian Ryder Hesjedal crashed in the 2014 Vuelta a España. Those incidents came to nothing.

However, the issue appears to be a much more serious one this 2015 season after a rule change and a CIRC report making official the rumors that were already making their way around the peloton.