Deceuninck-QuickStep boss Patrick Lefevere has hit back against the UCI, hours after the sport's governing body instructed the Cycling Anti-Doping Federation (CADF) to investigate a video showing the team's directeur sportif, Davide Bramati, removing an item from Remco Evenepoel's jersey pocket after his crash at Il Lombardia.
The video, circulated on Twitter this week, prompted UCI president David Lappartient to ask the CADF to investigate. The investigation will also look at whether the team transmitted "forbidden data" during the race after Bramati said he knew about the crash before arriving at the scene because Evenepoel's "data had stopped".
In a typically combative mood, Lefevere took to Twitter on Friday night to rail against both the UCI and the "so-called independent body", the CADF, later penning his weekly op-ed column for Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad, which this week focused on the investigation.
"Apparently, these images suffice for an investigation by an official body," Lefevere said, before going on to rail against Antoine Vayer – the ex-Festina coach who brought the video to light on Twitter.
"He posts the most ridiculous videos, which are deliberately cut as suggestively as possible.
"What happened? Bramati descended into the ravine after Remco's fall and removed all hard objects to save him from additional injury – his helmet, radio and also a bidon [water bottle] – in this case one a few centimetres in size.
"The only thing that can be seen in the images is that bidon, because that of course appeals most to the imagination."
In live images from the race, Evenepoel can be seen taking what looks to be a white bidon from a team soigneur atop the Sormano at 50.2km to go before putting it in his bottle cage.
Two kilometres later, he takes a drink while descending before reaching back to put the item in a jersey pocket just moments before crashing out of the race.
Lefevere says that the bidon is one often used in race finales, and contained nothing more than an energy drink or caffeine.
"Riders often use a bidon in the finals. That so-called 'final bottle' has meanwhile acquired a very bad reputation as a kind of sorcery, when the reality is that bidons in finals are simply more convenient and less sticky than gels.
"What's in such a bidon? Coke, Red Bull or a bit of caffeine. Nothing that is forbidden. There are certainly no painkillers because our team doesn't do that crap. We have never used Tramadol. The mysticism around the bidon is mostly a placebo effect."
Lefevere called the notion that Bramati climbed down into the ravine to retrieve the bidon "completely ridiculous", and stated that the Deceuninck-QuickStep team leaders were simply caring for their injured rider.
Following on from his earlier Tweets, Lefevere continued to criticise the actions of the UCI, suggesting that the investigation is a retaliation in the ongoing fight over rider safety, which came to a head after a string of crashes over the past month, two of which involved Deceuninck-QuickStep riders.
In the past week, following spats between riders, their own union the CPA, and the UCI, both Lefevere and Jumbo-Visma boss Richard Plugge have mooted the idea of teams banding together to set up a fund so an external company can inspect the safety of race routes.
"The most cynical reading of the facts is that I ventured onto the barricades again this week," Lefevere said. "Together with Richard Plugge and a number of other team bosses, we're working on an initiative to make cycling safer.
"We want to outsource this to an external organisation, very much against the wishes of the UCI, who see it as a vote of no confidence. It's unjustified because our concerns must be theirs, too – cycling must become safer.
"The confluence of circumstances is clear – by coming out now with news of the investigation, I'm paying the bill for my big mouth in the safety debate. It's scandalous, because it proves that the CADF is not independent, but an instrument that serves the agenda of the UCI, while cycling teams still co-finance the CADF.
"The decision is painfully clear: poor, poor cycling. Distressing. I don't have another word for this story."
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