Cyclist banned for 6 years for cheating with hidden motor

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AIGLE, Switzerland — Caught using a hidden motor at a world championship race, cyclo-cross rider Femke Van Den Driessche of Belgium has been banned from cycling for six years.

The sanction imposed Tuesday by the International Cycling Union is a first using its rules on technological fraud.

“This case is a major victory for the UCI and all those fans, riders and teams who want to be assured that we will keep this form of cheating out of our sport,” UCI president Brian Cookson said in a statement.

The UCI banned Van Den Driessche through Oct. 10, 2021, stripped her of the Under-23 European title she won last November and fined her 20,000 Swiss francs ($20,500).

She must return all prize money and trophies, including her Belgian national title, won since Oct. 11, the UCI disciplinary tribunal ruled.

The 19-year-old rider had said she would skip her disciplinary hearing at the UCI’s Swiss offices and retire from racing.

The motor was found using magnetic resonance scans of bikes in the pits area at the women’s world under-23 cyclo-cross race in Belgium in January.

“The motor was a Vivax which was concealed along with a battery in the seat-tube,” the UCI said Tuesday. “It was controlled by a Bluetooth switch installed underneath the handlebar tape.

“(T)his new method of testing has proven in trials to be extremely effective in locating hidden motors or other forms of technological fraud as it quickly detects motors, magnetic fields and solid objects concealed in a frame or components,” the UCI said.

The ruling followed 10 days after a French broadcaster and Italian newspaper alleged it used thermal cameras to detect suspected motors in bikes in two men’s road races in March.

Cookson said last week the claims were based on “inconclusive” evidence, and expressed confidence in the UCI’s detection methods.

Australia’s Jay Vine wins Tour Down Under

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ADELAIDE, Australia — Australia’s Jay Vine defended his overnight lead to win the Tour Down Under, the first event of the 2023 World Tour.

Simon Yates of Britain won the final stage and moved up from third to second place on overall standings. Vine came in second on the stage to secure the biggest win of his career in a stage race.

The UAE Team Emirates rider took the overall tour lead when he finished second in Stage 2 and third in Stage 3. He came into the final stage with a 15-second lead on general classification.

The 70-mile stage involved four laps of a 15.5 mile-circuit through the Adelaide Hills before finishing just beyond the summit of Mount Lofty.

Yates led the crucial attack on the ascent less than 1.2 miles from the finish, but Vine jumped onto his wheel and Australian Ben O’Connor also joined in.

O’Connor led out close to the finish line, Vine briefly passed him but Yates came over the top to claim the stage win. Vine retained his overall advantage and claimed the title in his debut appearance in the Tour Down Under.

The 27-year-old made his name in e-Sports before being signed by the UAE team after winning the academy program on the Zwift online platform. He won two stages of the Vuelta a Espana last year and the Australian Time Trial title.

“It’s pretty incredible to be standing here and wearing this jersey,” Vine said. “The way we drove that was first class. My guys were incredible.”

The final stage featured a breakaway of 13 riders but Vine’s UAE teammates led the chase by the peloton and put their rider in a position to contest the win.

Yates again rode an aggressive race but had to be happy with the stage win.

“We came Down Under with a lot of ambition. We put a lot into it and we didn’t come away with the overall but we can walk away pretty happy,” Yates said. “Obviously Jay Vine is a massive talent and the crowd will be happy with a local winner.”

France’s Coquard wins Tour Down Under Stage 4; Vine leads

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ADELAIDE, Australia — French cyclist Bryan Coquard won Stage 4 of the Tour Down Under for his first-ever World Tour win, while Australia’s Jay Vine retained the overall tour lead by 15 seconds with one stage remaining.

Coquard is a lightweight sprinter who has had 49 wins in a decade-long career but had never won on the World Tour until he cleared out near the finish to claim the 82-mile stage by a margin of about just over 100 feet.

Vine was among the leading group that shared Coquard’s winning time and who retained his lead on general classification over Britain’s Simon Yates and Germany’s Phil Bauhaus. The race concludes with Stage 5, which ends atop 2,329-foot Mount Lofty.

“It’s a long time that I’ve waited for this win, 10 years,” said Coquard, who rides for the French Cofidis team. “I never really expected and I’m very happy and relieved with this win.”

While the stage was flat and suited sprinters, it had its challenges. Cross-winds and occasional gradients made the stage difficult and confounded some riders.

After an early breakaway by Jonas Rutsch and former tour winner Daryl Impey of South Africa, the peloton broke into two groups with Vine and other tour leaders among the leading group.

The leading group stayed together around the last, sharp bend towards the finish and Coquard bided his time until his late sprint left other riders flat-footed.

“It was pretty stressful,” Vine said. “There was one point there, I thought we were going to have an easy day and I was happy, smiling, waving to families on the side of the road.

“Then, 45 kilometers in it was on and it was on until the end so it was a very hard day. There was a lot more calorie expenditure than I was planning.”