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First Hidden Electric Motor In Cycling World Championship (cxmagazine.com) 262

An anonymous reader writes with the story that the world championship cyclocross competition this weekend in Zolder (Belgium) was scandalized by the first case of "mechanical doping." European champion Femke Van Den Driessche was caught with a bicycle with a hidden electric motor. From the article: The Union Cycliste Internationale said in a statement âoethat pursuant to the UCIâ(TM)s Regulations on technological fraud a bike has been detained for further investigation following checks at the Womenâ(TM)s Under 23 race of the 2016 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships. This does not concern any of the riders on the podium. Further details will be shared in due course.â

The Belgian media outlet Sporza reported that the Belgian Cycling Federation had confirmed that the detained bike belonged to Van den Driessche. Ironically, Van den Driessche had abandoned the race due to a mechanical issue shortly before the bike was scrutinised. Van den Driesscheâ(TM)s name did not feature in the official results on the UCI website on Saturday evening.
Cyclocross Magazine adds some details.
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First Hidden Electric Motor In Cycling World Championship

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  • What's the deal... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 31, 2016 @04:57PM (#51410201)

    Why does cycling attract so much cheating?

    Is it just more publicized than that in other sports? I mean, you don't hear about cheating nearly as much in other "sports" where they depend upon mechanical equipment... Nascar, F1, MotoGP, etc...

    You'd think that Bill Belichick were the coach...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      it's one sport where physical attributes correlates almost 1:1 with performance. Like a wide receiver could dope in order to run faster but if he still can't catch the ball, what good does that do

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I mean, you don't hear about cheating nearly as much in other "sports" where they depend upon mechanical equipment... Nascar

      Good thing you quoted it if you will mention nascar. If you can do it with a beer belly and 30kg extra weight around the midriff it is not a sport! The reason you see this in cycling is that it is a sport: your athletic ability is a key determinant of your success.

      • by afgam28 ( 48611 )

        Just wondering if you think baseball [thedailybeast.com] is a sport?

    • by Joe_Dragon ( 2206452 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @05:23PM (#51410321)

      nascar has a saying If you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin'.

      Same things happens in lot's of other sports if you give some one 5 inches they will try to push it to 10 when the ref is not looking.

    • by MasterOfGoingFaster ( 922862 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @05:23PM (#51410325) Homepage

      Because a tiny increase in power makes a huge difference in results. In F1, a 1 HP difference is not noticeable. In cycling, 1 HP makes you faster than a fully dopped Lance Armstrong in his prime.

      • by George_Ou ( 849225 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @05:46PM (#51410419)
        A pro competitor at Tour de France averages 450 watts. Casual fit rider averages 220. That means having a mere half a horse power would let the casual rider win the Tour de France though you likely wouldn't be able to put in that much battery capacity for the entire ride unless you swapped the battery along the way. For competitive riders, just having a 100 watt motor that can turn on 10 minutes is enough to go from last place to first.
        • by Dahamma ( 304068 )

          Regenerate it on the downhills/flat pedaling. Of course you'd need a more complex motor (you wouldn't want to drain 100W to charge it, you'd want to charge slowly then use it when you most need it, i.e. to accelerate or go uphill).

          • by George_Ou ( 849225 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @07:19PM (#51410867)
            Regen on flat pedaling is stupid and goes along the lines of a perpetual motion machine. Much of the energy you pedal into the motor is lost in the form of heat and you won't get out what you put in. Reg on downhill would work and you don't need a more complex motor. All Brushless DC motors can regen when they're being forced to turn.
            • Brushless DC motors *are* complex motors. The motor itself isn't that complex (though for high power density you need very expensive magnets), but the controller is. And a bicycle doesn't give you much room to fit some complex electronic circuitry, *especially* if you're trying to hide it from the judges!

            • by Dahamma ( 304068 )

              Regen on flat pedaling is stupid and goes along the lines of a perpetual motion machine. Much of the energy you pedal into the motor is lost in the form of heat and you won't get out what you put in.

              You are thinking solely in terms of mechanics and not biology. Siphoning off a few watts on a flat pedal to recharge when cyclists are normally conserving energy for the next climb anyway and then applying it when needed most can spread out the energy expended to make things more efficient.

              Try running a 5k sprinting until you can't run any more, and then walking until you recover and can sprint again vs just running at your maximum steady pace. I guarantee you the latter strategy gets you a better time.

              Lo

              • by George_Ou ( 849225 ) on Monday February 01, 2016 @04:35AM (#51412493)
                Again, using human power to turn a generator to fill a battery is a fool's errand. You're better off doing opportunistic regeneration on downhill and letting the person rest. Forcing a rider to output an extra 50 watts so that you can collect 30 watts in the battery is just idiotic. But the point was that even without regeneration, a single 26550 battery @ 98 gram and a 100 watt motor @ 50 grams is more than enough to win a race.
          • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
            Aside from being easily caught when people weigh your competition bike and find it weight 3x everyone else's, it'd be easy to hide a motor where an inspection wouldn't find it. Put it in the frame, by the bottom bracket, and have the electric motor directly drive the crank. Fill every spare section of space in the frame with batteries. You'd be able to get 100W for the uphills for even long races.

            If you want it to be undetectable, you need to hide the batteries in the water bottle, or on your body, with
            • Don't need 100W for the entire race. Even a short 10 minute boost of 100W assistance from a small 26650 Lithium Ion cell is enough to push a competitor from back of the pack to the front of the pack.
            • by unrtst ( 777550 )

              Aside from being easily caught when people weigh your competition bike and find it weight 3x everyone else's...

              On a story a few months back, there was talk about standardized sports equipment, and bicycling came up.
              The bikes they use have a minimum weight requirement. Off the shelf bikes of somewhat decent quality (ballpark of $4000) can EASILY weight in at less than the pro weights.

              I'm not sure how much you can get away with hiding, but they could definitely shave off a few pounds. If it's engineered well, the batteries and such could even contribute some to the structural integrity. You could easily spread out the

        • Hmm, yes and no. While the athleticism is absolutely necessary, the athleticism is actually the easy part of being a bike racer. Learning to race effectively and race smart is the harder part. A casual 'fit' rider, suddenly given a hundred or so watt mechanical advantage, would not win the TdF. They also wouldn't even come close to winning a finishing sprint.

          Of course what we're talking about here are Pro Cat-1 riders on the UCI world tour, literally the creme-de-la-creme of competitive cycling. They've al
        • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Monday February 01, 2016 @03:43AM (#51412423)

          A pro competitor at Tour de France averages 450 watts. Casual fit rider averages 220. That means having a mere half a horse power would let the casual rider win the Tour de France

          For those weak at the unit conversion, there's a nice rhyme for remembering it.

          In fourteen-hundred and ninety-two,
          Columbus sailed the ocean blue,
          Divide the year of his voyage by two,
          And you get the number of Watts in a horsepower.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Cyclist racer here. It's because the checks are stricter than any other sport. The doping controls are stricter and less excuses are accepted

      Dont fool yourself, the level of cheating is probably worse in just about any other pro sport. It's more cycling after a few dead riders got more serious about catching em.

    • Cycling is a bit special as a longer endurance sport. There's more to be gained from marginal benefits. That said, cheating is very wide spread. It's a constant race between athletes and analysts. You often can't detect a new strategy of cheating until someone is physically caught and then you can develop an analytical method to do so. Lance Armstrong was caught not by the technology of the time but by revisiting blood samples which had been stored. Athletes may content themselves with microdoping where t

    • There is no more cheating in cycling than any other sport. For example, see the two major Australian football codes, which are using media and promotional ties to effectively sweep endemic drug cheating under the carpet. Or international athletics, of which the tip of the cheating iceberg has recently surfaced. The difference is that cycling is actively trying to eradicate cheating, thus the invasive scrutinising and drug tests.

    • by stephanruby ( 542433 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @10:02PM (#51411479)

      Is it just more publicized than that in other sports?

      Yes, it is. As a semi-professional swimmer, I am thankful no one has caught on my methane powered propulsion system yet.

    • Why does cycling attract so much cheating?

      It's the low barrier to entry.

      If I was the manufacturer of such a motor, I'd get in the race myself.

      The cost of entry is very low and the potential upside in free publicity (once caught) is super high.

    • Why does cycling attract so much cheating?

      You'd think that Bill Belichick were the coach...

      If Bill were coach, you'd cheat and win though... wouldn't you?

    • by swb ( 14022 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @10:42PM (#51411657)

      And the cheating is so institutionalized that it has to be egregious before it becomes a problem.

      Most team sports have this thing called a "penalty" or a "foul" where the offending team gets some small penalty or the offended team some small advantage -- fouls in basketball, the yellow flag in football, penalty box in hockey, balk in baseball.

      There's just so much attempted cheating they've just made it part of the game -- intentional fouls are part of the late-minute strategy in basketball to stop the clock. In hockey, it's actually against the rules to beat the shit out of an opposing player yet it too is (although less so now) part of the game, down to "the enforcer" each team hires to intimidate members of the other team, up to and including beating the shit out of them once in a while.

      In those sports only the most outrageous cheating becomes a scandal, like illegal hits in hockey that put someone in the hospital, hard fouls in basketball that result in an ejection or deflating the football (which, IMHO, couldn't have provided the advantage relative to the BFD it caused).

    • Is it just more publicized than that in other sports?

      I think it really is more publicized. Consider that doping scandals have hit nearly every professional sport - including golf. Even baseball has had it's share with things like 'cored' bats.

      Bicycling is just the one sport where a motor would be both useful and could be implemented in a way that would be 'hard' to spot.

    • Why does cycling attract so much cheating?

      Is it just more publicized than that in other sports? I mean, you don't hear about cheating nearly as much in other "sports" where they depend upon mechanical equipment... Nascar, F1, MotoGP, etc...

      You'd think that Bill Belichick were the coach...

      When's the last time you watched a Hockey, Basketball, or Football game (of either kind) without seeing a penalty? Those guys cheat constantly.

      The difference is how they cheat. In skill sports gaining a slight athletic edge doesn't help as much so the cheating is done at game time, and because it's detectable and so common the rules are pretty mild.

      In track or cycling it's all about fitness, so the only way to cheat is through doping or in this case hidden motors.

  • More details... (Score:5, Informative)

    by bluescrn ( 2120492 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @05:13PM (#51410271)
    There's some pics here showing how such a motor can be concealed surprisingly well:

    http://cyclingtips.com/2015/04... [cyclingtips.com]
    • And the battery? How much power can you store? Does it worth it? Consider the additional weight in the equation.
      • Re:More details... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Shinobi ( 19308 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @05:42PM (#51410399)

        Read the fucking article he linked. It's clearly stated. As for the worth of it, that would depend on the stage. 110W, as referenced in that article, equates to about 0.148 horsepower and would definitely make up for the addition of a bit of extra weight on a stage with a lot of climbing.

        • Re:More details... (Score:5, Informative)

          by Vegan Cyclist ( 1650427 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @06:03PM (#51410513) Homepage
          To give the power (wattage) a little more context: typical pros can average 400-500w over an hour. If someone could add 110w to that, it's a massive gain. It can turn someone with mediocre fitness into a 'champion'. It can make the difference for a successful breakaway for sure. And at the very least, it will save a ton of energy. A famous cycling quote goes along the lines of 'it's not who's fastest who wins, it's who has the most energy at the end who wins'. It's pretty significant. (Also worth noting: the average person can average 100-150w over an hour.)
          • by Shinobi ( 19308 )

            Yeah, the benefit is huge.

            Cassani stated, after testing a bike kitted out with a motor like that , that even at age 50, he could win a Giro stage with it.

        • How long the battery can deliver 110W? 110W for 1 sec doesn't provide a significant advantage given the extra weight, friction from the motor, etc.
    • by hondo77 ( 324058 )
      If by "surprisingly well" you mean "with the battery in a ginormous saddle bag that no pro would be caught dead with", then yeah.
  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @05:14PM (#51410279)

    Let me sum it up for you - here's the sum total of facts, all details included, from the article.

    "A motor was found"

    That's pretty much it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Some more facts were published meanwhile. The bike in which the motor was found was not the bike she used in the race. But they found it in her supply tent. There are claims that a person from her entourage put the bike there after cleaning it, because he thought it was her bike, but in reality it was one of hers that she sold to a friend some time ago.

  • If you are going to quote the original article by cut'n'paste a blurb, FFS make sure you fix the encoded entities. It looks so frigging amateurish when you don't.

    • Do you seriously hope to shame the editors with charges of amateurism?

    • Re:Nitpicking (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Dr. Spork ( 142693 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @05:48PM (#51410429)
      I remember plenty of Slashdot blurbs that consisted of several sentences lifted directly from the article, but giving no credit to TFA. Where I teach, that would be considered a case of representing someone else's words as yours, which is straightforward plagiarism, and gets you an unpleasant appointment with an assistant dean. So even though this execution isn't flawless, at least it clearly distinguishes the words of the blurb author and the article author. I consider that a huge step forward for Slashdot.
    • If you are going to quote the original article by cut'n'paste a blurb, FFS make sure you fix the encoded entities. It looks so frigging amateurish when you don't.

      You must be new here. The refusal to support unicode is a sacred tradition at Slashdot. So is looking amateurish.

  • How many watts can this thing deliver to the chain/rear wheel and for how long? These bikes are really light. About 15 lbs. The whole battery+motor can't weigh more than 4-5 lbs. If someone had a 20 lbs bike at a race, it would feel like it was made of lead to anyone who piked it up. (trust me on this one) I don't see how you could get meaningful power out of something so light. Plus, bikes are generally made of carbon fiber. You can't weld in mounting brackets or make a lot of changes to the inside

    • If you use it to get up the hills, you enjoy a gravity boost from the mass heading back down. Braking and wind resistance is where you actually lose your energy.

      • by nojayuk ( 567177 )

        There were reports of Tour de France riders being handed fake water bottles filled with lead at the top of a mountain stage to help them on the descent. When bottles filled with solid materials were banned they switched to mercury.

    • by Vegan Cyclist ( 1650427 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @06:09PM (#51410563) Homepage
      The bikes are about 16-18lbs. Even with the motor, just FYI. This technology already exists and you can read about it here: http://cyclingtips.com/2015/04/hidden-motors-for-road-bikes-exist-heres-how-they-work/ [cyclingtips.com]

      This thing can put out 110w over an hour. And it would help over an hour, for sure. The average pro can put out 400-500w over an hour. Add 110w to that? It's HUGE. It could put mediocre pros on the podium.

      It's worth reading the article, there's a lot more to it too...her brother was also caught doping EPO. And claims it was her 'friends' bike...that just happened to get brought into the race. All pretty shady stuff.
      • by Shinobi ( 19308 )

        An interesting thing in the race: She had a crash in a downhill section, and her comment about it was that she just couldn't stop. So possibly the motor got stuck in the On position

        • Those motors allegedly do about 100 watts. The amount of energy a normal bicycle brake can handle to slow you down is easily 1000 W - my bike can stop in a fraction of the distance it takes me to accelerate - and these pro bikers have for sure much better brakes than my city bike.

          That she couldn't stop is not likely caused by such a puny motor. It's more likely good old brake failure, or a surface that was more slippery than she anticipated.

        • FYI, she actually didn't race the bike, she was found to have it as a spare in the pits. (If you're not familiar, in cyclocross racers will often have a spare bike...or five..in the pits. You can actually swap out a bike pretty fast, taking only an extra second or two for well-trained racers.)
    • by Shinobi ( 19308 ) on Sunday January 31, 2016 @06:11PM (#51410577)

      One system mentioned has an effect of about 110W, with either 60 or 90 minute battery, total package weight with 60 minute battery is 1,8kg, with battery and motor all hidden away, wireless activation button etc.And yes, it can be disengaged.

      Ironically, it's on the mountain stages it'd really help. 0.148hp for a total of 60 minutes during a stage can help you build a massive lead spread over a few climbs.

      Also, look at some suspected motorized cheating like Fabian Cancellara in Roubaix-Flaanderen for example.

      Links:
      http://cyclingtips.com/2015/04... [cyclingtips.com]
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    • by Goonie ( 8651 )
      Short version - heaps.

      Longer version: 100 watts for 10 minutes in the context of an hour-long cyclocross race is enough to turn an also-ran into a winner. It would be decisive in most road races other than out-and-out bunch sprints as well.

      As far as drag goes, that's negligible by all reports. Avoiding drag when a power source is not providing propulsion is a very well-studied problem.

  • A simple solution that would be 100% effective at catching cheaters with hidden motors: x-ray the bikes just before the start of the race, and immediately after they pass the finish line.

    • That would require trained professionals who could interpret the images, and simply lead to an arms race between cheaters trying to make a concealment look normal and an inspector trying to work out what actually is normal.

      A real solution would be stock bikes handed out randomly at the start of a race. You would still need to ensure no collusion in the issuing system, and no ability to tamper between issuing and race start, but it would be easier than the alternatives...

      • by Goonie ( 8651 ) <robert DOT merkel AT benambra DOT org> on Sunday January 31, 2016 @06:59PM (#51410767) Homepage
        The insides of a bike frame are extremely simple - they're just tubes - and the mechanical components in the frame (the "bottom bracket") comes in only a few standard designs. Any plausible motor and battery is going to be big enough to stick out like a sore thumb. So X-Raying would work, as would pointing an IR camera at the bike detect the motor in operation. You can't hide that much waste heat in that small an area. As for stock bikes, nice idea, but not practical. At the elite level (and even at the serious recreational level) riders often spend a lot of time and money customizing the fit of their bikes. Furthermore, much of the sport's funding comes from equipment manufacturers who would be more than a little peeved if athletes weren't using their expensive gear.
        • by tepples ( 727027 )

          Furthermore, much of the sport's funding comes from equipment manufacturers who would be more than a little peeved if athletes weren't using their expensive gear.

          Then have Team Shimano and Team SRAM provide the stock bikes as a condition of sponsoring the event.

      • That would require trained professionals who could interpret the images,

        I'm not sure you'd need trained professionals, looking at an x-ray image and spotting anomalies isn't exactly rocket science.

        But even if you did, so what? As someone else pointed out, it would be very hard to conceal batteries and a motor from an x-ray image.

        Seriously, it'd be damn hard to hide components of a battery and a motor so they couldn't be recognized If anything unusual is spotted, the bike is taken apart and examined. I doubt you could build a motor and power supply into a bike such that it coul

        • I doubt you could build a motor and power supply into a bike such that it couldn't be found.

          That part I agree, but it's not about being unable to be found. It's about getting away with it, and that means making sure it's not visible or at the very least not obvious from the outside. That is a much simpler problem to solve and I can imagine it can be done. No, it's not cheap, but money isn't a big issue in a cycling. There's a lot of it, especially for the winner, so the potential payout is huge.

          • That part I agree, but it's not about being unable to be found. It's about getting away with it,

            You'd only get away with it until the bike was x-rayed or disassembled. After that, it's all over. No way you can hide a motor and the drive components from being found. And then you lose the race, the sponsorships, and all that goes with it.

      • by Trongy ( 64652 )

        Riders normally have their bikes customised to to suit their preference. Wheels, stem, handlebar, saddle, chainrings and cassette are all set up by team mechanics.

    • Kind of like how the NFL checked the pressure of footballs just before the Super Bowl.

      No matter what system is used to try to catch cheaters, cheaters will find a weakness in the system and exploit it.

      • No matter what system is used to try to catch cheaters, cheaters will find a weakness in the system and exploit it.

        Good luck defeating an x-ray, and good luck defeating the process of disassembling a bike into its component parts for examination.

        • You are not thinking like a cheater. Of course, it's unlikely to defeat the x-ray itself. So you do what any cheater does: find holes in the process.

          For example, it's unlikely that all bikes could be x-rayed at the same time, in the seconds just before the race. The process takes time. That means that bikes will be sitting somewhere--theoretically in a secure area--for some period of time after the x-ray. This leaves open an opportunity to bribe someone, or breach security in some other way, to make th

          • That means that bikes will be sitting somewhere--theoretically in a secure area--for some period of time after the x-ray.

            Everything you mention is just a matter of logistics. With even rudimentary security this wouldn't be an issue. Bies get confiscated after the race and are locked up, no tampering.

            -

            In any long bike race, it's unlikely that every foot of the course is under the watchful eye of officials, leaving room for a secret exchange.

            Actually, every foot of almost every race is filmed both by track cams and chase cars.

            -

            But that does not make the method foolproof.

            With a modest effort, it could be made so foolproof as to be virtually unbeatable.

    • Or do it like doping tests: random through the field, and the winners. Same for the bikes. Have the winner hand in their bike for inspection after the race, and do random checks before or after the race of the others.

      TFA mentions the organisation has equipment to test for this, without going into detail on how. I'm curious how they test these bikes, what this equipment looks for really.

      • Same for the bikes. Have the winner hand in their bike for inspection after the race,

        Have all the bikes inspected. 2nd place is worth cheating for too, I'm sure.

        • In many sports (including cycling) it's already the top-3 or top-something that's tested for doping. Not just the #1. I didn't write it up properly.

  • UCIâ(TM)s Womenâ(TM)s Driesscheâ(TM)s

    This is 2016. Why is this happening? We still cannot have a means of presenting text electronically via the Internet without fuckups like this?

There is hardly a thing in the world that some man can not make a little worse and sell a little cheaper.

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