A change in sports drinks before the Tour de France is being blamed for UAE Team Emirate's lacklustre performance in the French Grand Tour, where general classification rider Fabio Aru finished nearly half an hour down, sprinter Alexander Kristoff failed to win a stage and Irishman Dan Martin never cracked the top 10.
TV 2 Norway cycling expert and former pro Thor Hushovd reported that his sources say the team's new drink causes the body to absorb too much fluid, making it difficult to get the body to function 100 per cent.
"If it is correct, it is very big," TV2 Norway cycling expert and coach Johan Kaggestad said in a report published on the TV2 website.
"Going into this year's most important cycling race and starting with something new they haven't tried before is a total loss," Kaggestad said. "You have to use at what you are used to using and confident in. There can be no fooling with anything new that will revolutionise the world. It is unprofessional by the UAE. This is a total lack of management."
Hushovd agreed that it's not a good idea to try new products before a big race, no matter the pressure from sponsors.
"It's a little strange in all types of top sports, that when you come to the biggest events, suppliers come up with something new to be promoted and marketed, and then it often fails," said the 2010 world champion.
UAE Team Emirates denied there is an issue with the sports drink.
"We have had no problem with our energy drink," team communications manager Andrea Agostini told TV2. "We will do an internal evaluation and investigate why Kristoff did not perform as we had hoped."
Sven Erik Bystrøm, who finished the race in 110th, was one of the riders who said he did not feel well during the Tour, although he did not place blame for the lack of good sensations.
"I think it's a little premature to say," Bystrøm told TV2. "We almost have to evaluate what happened next. Had it been so easy, we could have just replaced it. It's probably a little more complex than that. I think we can get strengthened out of this Tour de France."