Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious) has said that the police raids on his Bahrain Victorious team have had a negative impact on their opening week performance.
Authorities began investigating the squad at the 2021 Tour de France when, on a rest day in Pau, they raided the team's hotel. Mohorič said at the time that it had made him feel "like a drug dealer".
As part of the ongoing anti-doping investigation, some riders and team staff had also had their homes searched before travelling to Denmark for the start of this year's Tour de France.
Then one day before the race was due to get underway they received a 5.30 am wake-up call from police at the hotel in Copenhagen.
Speaking on the race's second rest day, Mohorič told Cycling Weekly: “It’s not nice having to go through that again knowing that you did nothing wrong. You end up questioning yourself. Asking if you had done something wrong that you didn’t know about but at the end of the day, I have a clean conscience, I did nothing wrong and I stand by my values."
When asked about the impact the raid in Copenhagen had, the Slovenian explained that the timing was poor and impacted team morale in the first week of the Tour.
“For sure it hasn’t helped with morale in the team. Also since it has been going on for so long now. We are like, 'Tell us what we are doing wrong? Or maybe stop now and apologise,'” he said.
Mohorič added: “Maybe they should come and see us at the training camps, see how hard we work. To start again one day before the biggest race of the year after you’ve been quiet for so long, I don’t know, it feels a little bit weird.”
On top of the stressful beginning to the race, Bahrain Victorious were dealt a big blow when Jack Haig, their main general classification hope, crashed and had to abandon after stage five.
“It was not easy to lose Jack like that. I know how hard he had worked to get ready for this,” said the Slovenian. With Haig forced to abandon, Mohorič explained that the team’s focus had turned to Damiano Caruso in the next two weeks.
“We still have Damiano [Caruso], he’s feeling ok and going for the GC now. The fact that we lost Jack has given everyone else more freedom to get into breakaways and try to chase stage wins. Although it’s not been easy with the way the race has been,” Mohorič said.
Last week's cobbled stage to Arenberg brought a lot of drama and saw multiple incidents involving high-profile riders crashing. Mohorič’s fellow Slovenian, Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), was one of the riders to be caught up in the melee, although the Milan-San Remo champion doesn’t see race organisers removing cobbled stages anytime soon.
Mohorič said: “It’s not the first time they had this and I think people like to watch it. The organisers want people to be excited about the race and to watch it. Unfortunately it’s inevitable that it will hurt some GC contenders and people who have sacrificed a lot of time to be ready for the race.”
Mohorič said he is hoping to put his slow start to the Tour de France behind him. The 27-year-old noted that when breakaway opportunities materialise in the stages to come, he will look at seizing them with both hands.
“If I start to physically feel a bit better and get a break, I will for sure grab the chance with both hands and go for a stage win. We will see what happens,” he said.
Mohorič added: “The racing has been hard and we’ve seen many guys having a hard time, you never know how your body is going to respond when you’re under this amount of pressure. It’s hard to say in advance if you will have a good day, you just need to wait and see.”
THE MOUNTAINS WILL DECIDE
Tadej Pogačar has started the race in scintillating fashion, winning two stages and taking the yellow jersey from Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma). Despite the form of the reigning champion, Matej Mohorič believes that the race is still wide open and his fellow countryman is beatable.
“Definitely, I think that Vingegaard has proven that he’s also really going well and is ready. Vingegaard is, I think, more suited to the longer climbs and we still have many mountain stages to come,” Mohorič said.
During some much needed down time on the second rest day, Mohorič explained that he was looking to enjoy some reading time and an escape from the chaos that a grand tour brings. The Slovenian explained that he is reading Where the Crawdads sing by Delia Owens at this year’s race and that a book provides a form of escapism for him.
“I think nowadays we need to rest more, you always have to read messages on your phone and social media and never get proper rest you know. With a book, you can go into a different dimension,” Mohorič said.
Once the racing gets back underway today, all systems will be go at Bahrain Victorious. Matej Mohorič will be ready and prepared to come out fighting in a hunt for a stage win in the Tour de France finale.
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