Category: Cycling

Cyclists in the peloton | mechanical doping

The Hidden Motor | Prologue

There was a time when almost everyone was just dying to take apart Fabian “Spartacus” Cancellara’s bicycle. A conspiracy theory, in 2010, claimed that the vigorous Swiss had won both the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix with the help of a motor hidden somewhere in his bicycle, and not on his own merit. Even now, the internet still abounds with clips showing Cancellara speeding away from Tom Boonen on the Kapelmuur in the final lap. Large, red arrows pointing towards the Swiss’ handlebars, combined with frames so enlarged they become vague, near Impressionist smears, suggest that Spartacus used so-called ‘mechanical doping’ or, in other words, activated his mysterious motor.1 The question, therefore, is – would we uncover the Swiss’ big secret were we to cut up his bicycle? When a racing cyclist performs so splendidly that he outraces his competitors with apparent ease, as Cancellara did in 2010, is it any wonder that both friend and foe want to figure out the secret to a rider’s success? And, aside from speculation about hidden motors, what about more likely suppositions regarding illicit substances? Especially when we take into account the abundance of doping scandals in the 1990s. Whatever the case, when a supreme performance is delivered, to many people, mysterious forces appear to be at work. * Mysterious Forces at Work in Sport was a book that was published way back in 1941. Its author, sports journalist Joris van den Bergh, described how people in many different branches of sport are…