Vivax electric motor system was used in bike belonging to Belgian cyclo-cross racer Femke Van den Driessche

The concealed electric motor system and associated parts found in a bike belonging to Belgian racer Femke Van den Driessche at the 2016 Cyclo-cross World Championships in January has been revealed in a statement issued by the UCI on Tuesday.

Van den Driessche’s bike had a Vivax Assist electric motor concealed in its seat tube, which also contained the system’s battery. The button used to activate the motor was hidden underneath the bar tape and used a wireless Bluetooth system to communicate with the motor’s control unit.

The UCI’s Disciplinary Commission have handed a six-year suspension and a CHF 20,000 (£14,000) fine to the 19-year-old Belgian after she was found guilty of ‘technological fraud’.

vivax assist motorised bike

Vivax Assist

The Vivax system is commercially available from the Austrian company, which offers a variety of motors to fit mountain bikes, leisure bikes and road bikes.

Vivax claims that its system can provide pedalling assistance for 60-90 minutes, and up to 200 watts of power directly to the bottom bracket. When the motors is not in use, the rider can pedal normally with no added resistance. The sophisticated system costs €2,699 (£2,091), and Vivax claims it weighs under 2kg.

Vivax also produces a complete carbon-fibre road bike with the system already fitted (see video below), retailing for €5,649 (£4,375).

The UCI used a magnetic resonance scanner to detect the presence of the motor in Van den Driessche’s bike, which was located in the pit area during the under-23 women’s race.

The bike was made to look like a regular Wilier cyclo-cross bike. Wilier was quick to distance itself from the incident, saying that it only provides ‘off-the-shelf framesets’ to the Belgian team.

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“The Wilier factory does not, and never has supplied bikes or frames fitted with a concealed motor, not ever,” said Wilier in a statement. “Any bikes fitted with such technology have been modified by third parties with no involvement from the Wilier factory.”

Van den Driessche is the only person named in the UCI Disciplinary Hearing’s statement. However, it is very likely that she would have had assistance in fitting such a specialist device.


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Soon after the incident hit the headlines, Van den Driessche and her family claimed that the bike was a friend’s, taken in error. Belgian former professional Nico Van Muylder claimed that the bike was his when confronted by media. This aspect of the case is not mentioned in the UCI disciplinary statement.

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Rumours of electric motors being used in professional bike races have circulated for the past five years, but Van den Driessche’s was the first confirmed case. Since then, the UCI has stepped up the number of checks for concealed motors at events.

An investigation by French television’s Stade 2 and Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera claimed to find evidence of concealed motors during the Strade Bianche and Coppi e Bartali races in Italy. The investigators used thermal imaging cameras and allegedly detected unusual areas of high temperature in the lower seat-tubes of several riders’ bikes.

  • Ryan

    What even is a magnetic resonance scanner? It sounds like a bit of science fiction to me… I mean if they had a portable MRI that would be revolutionary for medicine! (and likely lethal with all the steel and magnetic metals flying all over the place)

  • jj

    You are a complete p.o.s. But you knew that already.

  • jj

    She believes that the “look the other way” attitude represented by some of the other commenters on this thread could win out. A six-year ban is ok. A lifetime ban would be better.

  • jj

    Agreed. She and her mech should have had a lifetime ban. Drop the hammer and send a message this will NOT be tolerated at all.

  • Ciaran Carroll

    Stop trying to sell your e bikes for cheating. It’s people like you that are ruining cycling

  • Joshua Rayner

    Maybe she liked the vibrations!

  • Joshua Rayner

    Well said

  • Joshua Rayner

    And you for yours:
    ‘You’re probably a euro but that’s perfectly legal in the US.’

  • Pauly_Pants

    Congratulations. Also I commend you for your irrelevant post.

  • Joshua Rayner

    Australian actually, we just had the 10th anniversary of our worst mass shooting, thanks.

  • Dave

    Can you imagine a race organiser accepting her entry form if she returns? Or a team signing her?

    There’s also the matter of the CHF20,000 fine. Even after the suspension, if she can’t/won’t pay it she won’t be able to race.

  • Dave

    Motor-assisted bikes are not illegal in most countries, so long as they comply with normal road regulations.

    Using them in races is not illegal in most countries.

    The only problem is that using them in races is not permitted by the bodies organising the races, so those bodies might decline to grant you entry to their races in the future (commonly called a ‘suspension’).

  • Dave

    No.

    The UCI’s regulations state that the consequence for not paying a fine is that you’re suspended until you pay it.

    Not being a proper Criminal Court, the UCI cannot issue real fines and so they are really just fees which can be paid to re-enter the sport.

  • Colinoz.

    LoL

  • KarlRoche

    Planning to carry out a bank robbery is illegal, hence having the bike and planning to use it also fits. Whether you do either makes no difference. Intent is key when it comes to these sorts of decisions.

  • You many not like this, but we make more safe the sport. No more chinese droga from the internet, no more riders they get sick. Those who like, we keep thier blood more safe.

  • Michael

    Eh? My arguments fit what happened.

    She was banned in spite of the bike not being ridden on the day for the reasons I gave.

    Call it as weak as you like, but it’s the reality of the situation.

  • Grumpy

    There are pills for that….

  • Xavier Melendez

    F@#% You DopedBikes and RobertoBassi!!! You’re no different than the crooked medical professionals across the globe who supply performance enhancing drugs to athletes. I hope you and all like you can sleep at night knowing you are part of the problem that is poisoning all sports. @dopedbikes:disqus @UCI_cycling @RobertoBassi #DopersSuck

  • Jeff Brunton

    the bike was in her designated pit area for her to use in the race – in a cyclocross race the riders swop bikes every lap or two. So she clearly intended to use it. And had obviously used it in the past – in a previous race you can see her press the button on the handlebars, and overtake people while sitting, while the others are having to stand. In that race, she was the only person faster up the hill than down, her splits are available. With hindsight, her cheating was so obvious it was only a matter of time before she was busted. Great family – brother serving a ban for EPO

  • Pauly_Pants

    You’re probably a euro but that’s perfectly legal in the US.

  • Colinoz.

    The move to external bearings was to reduce bending in the shaft.

  • Alex

    Surely she or any rider would feel the dull vibration through the seat tube and saddle???? Aghhhhhh……………….

    So this is why 10-15 years ago there was a massive ‘technological’ move away from older sealed cartridge bottom brackets to cranks with external cup bearings……… It is all making sense now ……….

  • Joshua Rayner

    She went to the bank with the gun. She just didn’t get it out. It shows premeditation and an act of preparation. Would you like it if people went to the bank with guns?

  • Pauly_Pants

    I’m over it. In fact, I don’t really care either way what she did or does but your arguments are weak.

  • Chris

    OK, she has broken the rules of cycling, but she did not break any civil or criminal codes. She has left cycling, therefore her suspension is irrelevant. What about the fine? Does that have to be paid?

  • Michael

    Well, ok then, the point there was just to emphasise that not using the bike on that particular occasion made no difference to the fact it broke the rules.

    here’s another to counter your ignorant “she didn’t benefit” argument.

    It’s still armed robbery if you drop the money on the way out the bank and “don’t benefit”

    She’s banned. For good reason. Get over it.

    That said, if you believe that her friends all ride identical bikes would you like to buy some magic beans? They look a bit like cadbury’s mini eggs but they’re magic and cost £1000 each. Pack of ten do you?

  • Mike Prytherch

    Awesome, forget a new bike I’m getting one of these fitted, I can see loads of Strava PB’s coming my way, and with my new disc’s I’ll be smashing the downhill section as well

  • Jay

    There is absolutely no reason to lighten the penalty if the ultimate aim is to get rid of the cheats. They had already broken the UCI rules by having a motorised bike in the pits so UCI should have applied a heavy handed approach to set a benchmark because from now on, this penalty will be used as a precedent and a gauge for future offences and UCI will be dealing with a can of worms trying to decide whether future offences should be 3, 5, 6 or 8 yrs and it’s a waste of time and resources to deal with it later on.

  • Darren Yearsley

    6 years is a lifetime for a professional athlete. I would have offered a 2 year ban to put the squeeze on everyone else involved.

  • Jay

    Surprised only banned for 6 yrs. What happen to the life time ban as a deterrent? UCI is too soft and riders are abusing the rules as it is. To a certain extent it seems they are not really determined to get rid of cheaters.

  • sola scientia

    Didn’t you hear? The lady quit the sport over a month ago. Or do you just enjoy flogging dead horses?

  • Running Rampage

    If it wasn’t HER Bike, I still don’t get how it could possible look EXACTLY like some friends bike. I know exactly what MY bike looks like. It’s not stock and it not going to look anything like any other bike.

    She’s clearly guilty. I didn’t even know such a thing exist until I took a look. It’s Interesting. But the clear thing to me watching the video from the company. The Battery Pack is normally in a Bag right under and behind the seat! So you clearly know theirs a motor. Hiding Battery’s in the Seat Bar with the motor? That’s someone clearly trying to HIDE things!!!

    You also don’t think a Professional Bike rider would notice the extra weight of a Motor and battery’s? It’s all about shaving off weight and having as light weight bike as you can that will still hold up. These things you can generally pick up with a finger.

    The old, it’s not me excuse is really pretty weak. A mix up really? A exactly same looking bike as a friends and it’s a mix up? Who is dumb enough to believe garbage like this? These are PROFESSIONAL bike riders!!! If there’s one thing they do know, it’s their bikes!!!

  • Pauly_Pants

    That’s a terrible analogy and a lazy argument. She broke the rules, but didn’t benefit in any way from the bike being in the vicinity of the race. If you want to use the armed robbery analogy, it’s like she needed money badly and could have robbed someone but worked hard for her money instead.

  • Michael

    Same reason it’s still armed robbery even if you don’t shoot anyone I suppose.

    Having the bike is enough.

  • Dan Kenyon

    What if it was a rider getting busted with EPO that hadnt been used?
    Dont punish them because it hadnt been used??

    The fact its there even in an unused capacity is very likely to mean its been used before, there were previous concerns about her as it was.
    I think the punishment is fair, all riders have a responsibility for their equipment and bodies.

  • blemcooper

    That’s not relevant. The UCI regs (12.1.013 bis) say that the mere presence of such a bike within or on the margins of a cycling competition constitutes technological fraud. The margins would include her designated pit area for sure, whether she owned the bike or not.

  • Rupert the Super Bear

    There’s film out there of her clearly usng something to “assist” her. I posted the footage some time back but it was removed.

  • drsus

    right, from what i gathered it was one of the many back up bikes on her rack and she didn’t even own that particular bike.

  • Colin

    She didn’t even use the bike so why was she penalised?

  • LaszloZoltan

    6 years is insufficient imho- lifetime for the rider and her mechanic