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Bike thieves caught in Austria after stealing Amore e Vita race bikes

Amore & Vita-Conad before their bikes were stolen

Amore & Vita-Conad before their bikes were stolen (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

The Amore e Vita-Conad team was forced to ride on borrowed bikes during the opening stage of the Settimana Lombarda race on Wednesday after modern-day bicycle thieves cleaned out the team's truck in Bergamo the night before the race.

Fortunately for the small Italian team, the thieves were quickly caught and the bikes recovered when Austrian police stopped a van in Vienna.

"The day began terribly when we discovered that 15 race bikes had been stolen along with 28 pairs of Spinergy wheels," Team Manager Cristian Fanini revealed on the team's website.

"They were worth at least 100,000 euro and to make things worse, we aren't insured and neither was the hotel. Thank God everything worked okay because they were caught during a routine police check. The Austrian police suspected the van and discovered all our bikes and wheels inside it."

The Amore e Vita-Conad riders borrowed bikes from a local amateur team in Bergamo to ride the opening mountain time trial at the Settimana Lombarda. The Austrian and Italian police are working with the team to get the bikes back to Bergamo so that the team can use them for Thursday's second stage.

The bike thieves are suspected of being part of a gang that has regularly targeted teams in Italy. They apparently studied the press to discover when teams were holding training camps or attending races and then struck during the night. In 2009, a gang of thieves stole 22 Bianchi bikes from Team Barloworld during a training camp in Tuscany.