Tour de France and Ardennes Classics race director, Christian Prudhomme has told Belgian newspaper La Dernière Heure that fighting against mechanical doping must be cycling’s top priority and that “motors in cycling are no longer a rumour, they exist.”
In a lengthy interview published on Friday during the countdown to Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Prudhomme said that motorised bikes were the latest challenge the sport faced following the doping scandals of previous years.
“This is the reality we face,” ASO’s head of cycling said. “Two steps forward, three steps back. We've spent so many years fighting and now there is this new problem. It’s not a rumour, they exist. We will have to fight it together, rather than each other.
“We have to defend the vast majority of riders and we have to take the toughest measures possible, the most severe ones possible.” Prudhomme had already made a formal request for swift action to the race organisers association, the AIOCC, and said to La Derniere Heure that he believed the current testing for motors had to be massively increased.
Prudhomme also described rider security as an overriding concern for a race organiser like himself and pointed out that in their ongoing campaign to reinforce it, they had removed guest cars from the race route in Paris-Roubaix this year and again in the Ardennes Classics. He also said that the regulators for motorbikes as well as other key drivers in the race would regularly reconnoitre stages.
As for the ongoing conflict between the UCI and ASO, Prudhomme did not reveal any new developments, but said simply he hopes that “good sense will prevail.” He pointed out that ASO’s promotion of formerly unprofitable races like Le Dauphiné and Paris-Nice helped maintain a vital part of the sport “because we know there can’t be races worldwide if there is no broad base of events. And in the other direction, it’s good that [Continental Pro squad] Delko Marseille can race in the Fleche Wallonne or Paris-Nice.”
Warming to his point, Prudhomme told La Dernière Heure he had been impressed by Vincenzo Nibali’s presence in the [one-day] 2015 Copa Bernocchi, an Italian race with a relatively minor stature. “He’s won the Giro, the Vuelta and the Tour and then he goes to a race like Bernocchi and wins it. That makes you realise how strongly he cares about the sport. We need Thibaut Pinot to be at the [cat 1.1 French race near Pinot’s home] Tour du Doubs every year if he wants. That kind of proximity to the public that cycling has must be defended. People who don’t know the sport are always surprised by how ready our riders and champions are to sign autographs, have a selfie, or to smile at the public at the start of a race. That [accessibility] doesn’t exist in the vast majority of sports.”