Greg LeMond has suggested that a simple way to detect if riders have hidden motors in their bikes is to use a heat-detecting gun, even during races.
The former Tour de France winner watched the finish of stage 19 of the Giro d'Italia in Cervinia. While Fabio Aru climbed on the podium after winning the stage, LeMond spoke Cyclingnews and Gazzetta dello Sport about the race, Marco Pantani, his own Giro d'Italia memories and Alberto Contador's domination.
Talk soon moved to the reports of possible use of motors and the UCI's checks to try to find them after Thursday's stage to Verbania. LeMond is convinced that motors have been used in the peloton and that a heat gun and banning bike changes could be a simple but effective deterrents.
"I know that motors exist, I've ridden a bike with one and I've met the inventor and talked about it. If people think they don't exist, they're fooling themselves, so I think it's a justified suspicion. I believe it's also been used in the peloton. It seems too incredible that someone would do it, but I know it's real," he said.
"To make sure it doesn't happen, I don't think there should be bike changes in races. Period. Unless you have a real mechanical problem. It'd take away the suspicion. I just hope the UCI is doing the right thing. Fifty or 100 watts is nothing for a motor. If you're say riding at 400 watts on a climb, an extra 50 watts means minutes on a climb and there's no real weight penalty.
"It's like any sport but there will always be people trying to cheat. It's a pretty shocking way to cheat if some of the top riders do it. Hopefully it'll never surface and the UCI will nip it in the bud.
"It's simple to check for, much easier than doping, but not by looking down the tube. You need a thermal heat gun, you can use it in the race. It can see from metres away if there a difference in the heat in the bottom bracket. I'd recommend that to the UCI."
Pantani was a good person
Despite now working for Eurosport, LeMond was not afraid to give very personal opinions. He spoke from the heart even when veteran Gazzetta dello Sport reporter Claudio Gregori asked LeMond what he thought Alberto Contador's adoration for Marco Pantani.
Contador said he had hoped to win the stage of the Giro d'Italia to Madonna di Campiglio, where Pantani had failed a blood haematocrit test leading to him being disqualified from the race. LeMond's answer was revealing.
"I'm sure that when Contador was growing up, Pantani was at the top, I think his style of racing is what Contador is talking about," LeMond said in defence of Contador.
"I've been very critical of many riders but I've always been more critical of some of the corruption that has gone on in cycling. Riders have a choice and need to be given that choice but I don't think riders really had much of a choice in the '90s and 2000s. It doesn't make it right, people have heroes who aren't always perfect. I met Pantani and I liked watching him race. Pantani was a good person but good people also sometimes do bad things. Because somebody doped, it doesn't make them a bad person. I want the sport to ensure that riders feel they don't have to dope. That's the best way."
Contador can do the Giro-Tour double
LeMond rode the Giro d'Italia seven times, finishing third in 1985 and fourth in 1986. However later in his career he often used it as training for the Tour de France and failed to finish three times.
He has enjoyed the aggressive racing in this year's event and is full of praise for Contador. LeMond believes Contador has the mental strength to recover quickly from his efforts at the Giro d'Italia and peak again for the Tour de France.
"1986 was probably my best year but I lost time in a crash," LeMond explained reminiscing with pleasure. "They did not have stages like this one (to Cervinia) back then. I'd have loved stages like this. The races were built for Moser and Saronni, there were only a few mountains. I needed big mountains to make a big difference.
"This year's been a hard race, there's a lot people on the wayside. It's been a pretty impressive ride by Alberto Contador. He's head and shoulders above everyone else, he's doing it with ease. This hadn't been an easy Giro for him but he fought on after injuring his shoulder. Others would have gone home but he fought on. He's had a whole team of Astana riders against him but they can't do anything. He's also tactically smart. He'll be confident for the Tour now.
"If anybody can do the double, he can. He's got so much experience. He's an impressive rider and is arguably the most consistent Grand Tour rider, probably ever. We'd have to go back to Merckx's reign to make a comparison and he doesn't seem to be fading yet.
"I think he can do the Giro-Tour double. Having the energy for it is more psychological than anything, so he'll be good. I think in 10 days time he'll have recovered and be fine. It's about maintaining that hunger. I felt I was physically able to do another Tour de France five days later, racing gets you in good shape. Peaking is mainly psychological."
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