Third cat rider's rapid improvement sparked suspicion among officials
Cyril Fontaine, the 43-year-old French amateur who was caught racing with a motorised bike in October, has been handed a five-year ban by the French Cycling Federation (FFC).
Fontaine was caught as a result of an operation carried out jointly by judicial officials in the city of Périgueux, the FFC and the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) at a third-category race that took place in St-Michel-de-Double, but not before attempting to escape the race by car and having to be chased down by anti-doping official and former pro Christophe Bassons.
According to French newspaper Le Figaro, the disciplinary commission of the FFC met in late December to consider Fontaine’s case, informing him in mid-January that he would be banned from competition from five years.
Watch: What’s it like to ride a motorised bike?
Suspicions were raised about Fontaine’s performances in summer last year after he began racing on a new bike, putting in strong performances that saw him climb with first-category riders at a race near Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sireuil in the Dordogne region of south-west France.
Officials were then tipped off, arriving at Fontaine’s next race in St-Michel-de-Double to observe his performance and examine his bike. However upon seeing the officials Fontaine abandoned the race before attempting to drive off with his bike in his car, being successfully pursued by Bassons.
Fontaine’s case is the second example of a rider being banned for what is officially known as “technological fraud” after Belgian rider Femke Van den Driessche was caught with a motor in her spare bike at the Cyclocross World Championships in 2016. Van den Driessche was banned for six years by the UCI, but by that point had already announced her retirement from the sport aged 19.
Fontaine is not the only amateur to be caught using a hidden motor in a race, with a 53-year-old Italian amateur also being caught last summer, reportedly refusing to let officials check his bike after a race as he “had a wedding to go to”.