“Mavic wheels or magic wheels?” So read the headline in Monday’s L’Équipe as the French cycling federation’s national technical director Isabelle Gautheron pondered the startling success of the Great Britain team in track events at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
The British squad has won four gold medals and a bronze in the opening four days of competition on the track. While that haul of medals is in itself hardly a surprise, the number of world records set and the improvement in British times since the world championships in April have raised questions in the French camp about the material they are using.
“We’re asking a lot of questions. How have they gained so many tenths of a second per lap in the space of a few months? And even seconds in the pursuit?” Gautheron said, according to L’Équipe.
After stressing that she was not casting aspersions of doping on her cross-channel rivals, Gautheron noted that the British squad had been very secretive about its equipment during the Games, and in particular their wheels, which are badged as Mavic.
“They cover up their wheels a lot,” Gautheron said. “The ones on the bikes they use in competition are placed under covers as soon as they finish. Unlike frames, wheels don’t have to be ratified by the UCI. Are they really Mavic wheels?”
All equipment used on the track must be commercially available, however, and Mavic’s events manager Jacques Corteggiani insisted that the British team were using the same wheels as all other Mavic-supplied federations, including France and Australia.
“For us, they all have the same material,” Corteggiani told L’Équipe. “Our sponsorship manager Thomas Davy is on site and for him, there’s no problem.”
British Cycling’s performance director Dave Brailsford said that his team was successful “thanks to the best training and the best equipment,” before joking, “there’s no secret about our wheels: they’re round.”