A former Saxo Bank mechanic has defended Fabian Cancellara after Phil Gaimon accused him of motor doping. Rune Kristensen, who currently works with Quick-Step Floors, worked on Cancellara’s bike during the 2010 Classics campaign and says that it would have been impossible to hide a mechanical device.
“I simply do not think it's possible to cheat on an electric motor without being discovered,” Kristensen told ekstrabladet.dk.
The comments by Gaimon are not the first to question Cancellara. Following his 2010 Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix victories, where he accelerated away from his rivals while sat in the saddle, Cancellara was forced to defend himself against accusations made by the Italian journalist Michele Bufalino. Cancellara has always denied this and, at the time, responded by saying “my body is my motor.”
Kristensen was one of two mechanics to work on Cancellara’s bike during that particular campaign. “In 2010, I was a mechanic at the two races [Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix] with Cancellara's permanent mechanic, Roger Theel, and we jointly assembled all the team's bikes for spring classics," he said.
“Had there been an engine stored in a bike, I would have discovered it. It would not be possible to avoid it. Fabian's bikes were handled like all other bikes, so it's impossible that something could be hidden in it.”
Gaimon’s comments were made in his book Draft Animals and were picked up in the press earlier this week. The former rider said that he had not previously entertained the idea that Cancellara had been motor doping, but testimony from previous teammates along with video footage changed his mind on the matter.
“I dismissed it until I heard his former teammates talk about certain events where Cancellara had his own mechanic, his bike was kept separate from everyone else's, and he rode away from a "who's who" of dopers,' Gaimon wrote. “When you watch the footage, his accelerations don't look natural at all, like he's having trouble staying on the top of the pedals. That fucker probably did have a motor.”
Speaking to Cyclingnews on Wednesday, Gaimon stood by his comments, saying that Cancellara’s accelerations – particular those in his 2008 Milan-San Remo victory – looked unnatural. However, he added that he thought that they had been taken out of context.
"I do think it happened that year a couple times, but as soon as somebody noticed and it became a story nobody did it again. I think it's an absolute clickbait, red herring – even up to the new UCI president [David Lappartient] who is acting like it's a big issue that he is going to get to the bottom of. Anyone on the inside knows it's a joke."
While Gaimon may believe that his words were taken out of context, the matter has continued to escalate. Newly appointed UCI president David Lappartient, who has been particularly vocal about motorised doping, told Cyclingnews on Thursday that the body would look into the accusations.
"What I would say regarding the case you are speaking about is that I will try to have more information and we will investigate. We will investigate because we need to know exactly what is behind this. Of course, I heard all the rumours, like everybody, and I just want to know exactly. So we will investigate, that is our job," Lappartient told Cyclingnews.
"At this level, I cannot say more than this, but I hope that this never happened in professional cycling. If this was the case, it would be a disaster for the image of cycling and that's why we have to fight. I want the people and the fans on the road to be able to trust the result, trust the UCI and trust the controls from our institutions."
Cancellara has not publicly responded to the comments.