Sonny Colbrelli has suggested the police raid carried out on his Bahrain Victorious team at the Tour de France was sparked by “pure jealousy”, suggesting an atmosphere of suspicion in the sport leads people to suspect every strong performance.
News of the police raid was first broken by Cyclingnews on Thursday morning and later confirmed in an official statement from the Bahrain Victorious team. The public prosecution office based in Marseille issued a statement confirming the team had been searched and announcing it had opened a doping investigation led by the OCLAESP, the public body that deals with health matters.
According to a report in Le Parisien in June, two individuals, including one team boss, raised concerns over Bahrain Victorious' performances both at the Giro d’Italia and the Critérium du Dauphiné. They both refrained from going on the record, and admitted that they had no proof to back up the allegations or suspicions, but they nevertheless raised doubts over the team’s credibility.
“Jealousy is part of the game and part of life. Unfortunately, someone sparked the police search,” Colbrelli told Cyclingnews and other media at the start of stage 18 in Pau.
“These things happen for pure jealousy. It is for pure jealousy.
"I didn’t sleep at all because I was so irritated. We don’t deserve this. In our world, if you ride strongly, they say you’re up to something, if you ride slowly, you’re a nobody...”
Colbrelli is the current Italian national champion after winning the title in mid-June. Before that, he won a stage and finished second on three other stages at the Critérium du Dauphiné, also winning the points competition.
He has fought for stage victories in the Tour de France and is currently third in the points competition. He was second on the mountain stage to Saint-Gaudens on Tuesday.
Colbrelli insisted the recent Bahrain Victorious run of success came thanks to hard work and personal sacrifice.
“Only we know how long we’ve spent away from home, how much the team invests in altitude training camps and everything else,” he said.
“I don't wish what happened to us on anybody. But I’m happy that this has happened because it shows the team is becoming important and showing it with the results.
"We’ve been hit by a high number of tests at this Tour de France and they’re welcome to do that. But after a hard stage like yesterday, when you get to your hotel room at 9pm and then you’re searched until 1am, and go to bed at 3am, it is not nice.”
Colbrelli revealed that the French police also took hair samples from the riders for further testing.
“It wasn’t nice for a sensitive person like me but it’s the price we have to pay,” he said.
“They turned everything upside down during the search. They were kind and I can’t complain because when they pulled things out, they then put them back. We all collaborated. We all underwent an analysis of our hair too. They didn’t find anything.”
Colbrelli is hoping to challenge Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and Michael Matthews (BikeExchange) in the fight for the green points jersey and his sprinting skills make him a contender for stage 19 to Libourne on Friday and the final stage 21 in Paris on Sunday.
Bahrain Victorious have already won two stages thanks to Matej Mohorič and Dylan Teuns, and lead the team classification ahead of EF Education-Nippo.
“It won’t be easy to race. I’ll try to make it through the stage and then tomorrow is another day,” Colbrelli said.
“My Tour didn’t end yesterday, that’s for sure. I want to look forward, we’re only a few days away from reaching Paris.”
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