Life and preparations for the Tour de France appeared, at least on the surface, to carry on as normal for Bahrain Victorious on Thursday morning in Copenhagen. Yet just hours earlier, the team had been subjected to their second police search of the week and, with just 24 hours to the start of the Tour, they were again in the eye of the storm.
On Monday, the homes of a number of riders and team staff were searched by police across Europe, with Europol acting on the request of French investigators. This time, the Danish police searched the team’s rooms and vehicles, again on a request from the French police.
Cyclingnews visited the Bahrain Victorious hotel on the outskirts of Copenhagen as riders prepared to head out for training. The police had completed their search and left, and Bahrain Victorious had issued yet another statement.
"No items were seized from the team," the statement made clear. "The officers searched all team vehicles, staff and riders’ rooms. The team fully cooperated with all the officers’ requests, and the search was completed within two hours.”
The team’s press officer confirmed to Cyclingnews that nobody would comment further and the riders stayed mostly tight-lipped, almost zipped-lipped.
The Bahrain Victorious line-up for this year’s Tour de France includes Damiano Caruso, Jack Haig, Matej Mohoric, Luis Leon Sanchez, Dylan Teuns, Jan Tratnik, Fred Wright and Kamil Gradek.
A rider briefing on the team bus lasted for 20 minutes, perhaps longer than usually needed to explain the plans for a short ride, but the riders eventually departed for a training ride at 11:00am.
There was no sight of team manager Milan Erzen, whose home in Slovenia was reportedly searched on Monday.
Jack Haig was friendly when approached by the media in the hotel car park but preferred not to comment.
“Have a good day, guys,” the Australian said.
Damiano Caruso confirmed to Cyclingnews that his home in Sicily had been searched on Monday, but he seemed more perplexed about this third search of the team. He was not in Pau in 2021 and didn’t ride last year’s Tour de France but appears now to be involved in the investigation.
“I can’t say anything because I really don’t know what to say,” Caruso told Cyclingnews, downbeat but seemingly unsure of what the police investigation is trying to achieve.
Mohoric stayed tight-lipped, with other riders did a brief photo shoot for a minor sponsor. Life and cycling appeared to roll on.
All the riders could do was prepare for a short ride and a final shakedown of their time trial bikes. Team mechanics were busy preparing the time trial bikes, while soigneurs filled boxes with ice and prepared drinks.
Across the car park the Groupama-FDJ team staff looked on. Just as in Pau in 2021, they were in the same hotel as Bahrain Victorious when the police arrived. Team manager Marc Madiot was not amused to say the least.
Bahrain Victorious have always denied any wrongdoing and have taken a robust stance against the police investigation, promising to soon reveal more details.
Last October, the team shrugged off suggestions that the hair testing on three of their riders had discovered traces of the powerful muscle relaxant Tizanidine. The substance is not prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency but the test results could indicate off-label use of the medicine.
“The investigation into the members of the team, which started almost a year ago and did not yield any results, continues just before the start of the most important cycling race, the Tour de France, and damages the reputation of individuals and Team Bahrain Victorious,” Bahrain Victorious said in a statement on Monday.
“Due to recent investigations, the team feels the timing of this investigation is aimed at intentionally damaging the team’s reputation.”
The riders will perhaps have more to say when they hold their pre-race Tour de France press conference on Thursday afternoon.
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