Earlier this year we discussed some of the new, so-called “mechanical doping” regulations instituted by the UCI – and the increasing monitoring of bikes at races around the world for the hidden motors that can assist riders at key moments of a race.
Well, former Giro d’Italia and Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali kicked mechanical cheating up several notches last week at the Vuelta a Espana, but he did it the old-fashioned way.
We’ve all seen riders take a “professional boost” from a team car when having a mechanical fixed while rolling alongside the car, or when taking the hand-off of a water bottle. They hold on for a few extra seconds to get all the free momentum they can. But these interludes are accepted as a professional courtesy and just part of the pro racing game.
At the Vuelta, however, Nibali crossed the line – and left the line in the dust of the team car!
He was in the group behind the lead group on Stage 2 after having crashed when his Astana team car rolled up. Video of the egregious event shows him taking hold of the car as he and the car almost comically zoom up the road with not even the pretense of a bottle handoff or even just a little extra boost. Within seconds, the car is out of sight.
Vuelta race director Javier Guillén said he’d “never seen anything similar.”
After reviewing the video, the race jury expelled Nibali from the race.
“We’ve seen the video. They tried to search in the rules, all the possibilities, but you know the decision, to expel the rider,” Guillén said after the stage finish.
“I agree with the decision, because I think his attitude is regrettable.”
Guillén was being too nice, I’d say. I’ll leave it to you to fill in the blanks about what he must have been thinking, though I’d venture that the word cojones was floating in his mind.