Dan Martin, Mollema, Fuglsang allege TV motos influencing Tour racing

Posted on: July 13th, 2019
Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) finished in 2nd and 3rd, some 20 seconds ahead of the group containing the main favourites. There were complaints the TV motos aided the riders – through no fault of the French duo – on the climb as they attacked and on the descent.

A late attack by two home favourites in the Tour de France – Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) – has brought forward allegations of drafting from the TV motos on the race.

Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) were both very clear in their criticisms, saying the TV motorbike aided the two French riders on Saturday’s stage 8 finale.

The Danish TV station that Fuglsang made his comments to also reported that Ireland’s Dan Martin had added his voice to the complaints.

And other reports suggested that Martin and Mollema had gone as far as taking their complaints to the race jury.

There were comments in the media directly from Mollema and Fuglsang about the issue.

The matter is not about anyone cheating. Instead, some of the riders believe the TV motos are getting too close to get their pictures.

And they believe sometimes the motorbikes get so close they inadvertently influence the racing; specifically that they are a pacing and drafting aid to some riders.

This is a screen grab of the footage recorded from the TV moto that was just ahead of Alaphilippe when he attacked. The location of the moto is not Alaphilippe’s fault and the Frenchman is entirely blameless. Though the TV moto is not getting close deliberately to influence the racing, are the motos helping to inadvertently decide the outcomes of races?
This is a screen grab on the descent; the two French riders have the TV moto just ahead of them. Mollema said having a TV moto just ahead while descending is a very significant advantage.

How Dan Martin complained, or if he actually did complain, about Pinot and Alaphilippe remains to be confirmed.

However, even before yesterday’s stage 8 Dan Martin outlined in his Irish Times Tour Diary, published on Saturday morning, how motorbikes had influenced the racing in recent days.

He believed a split in the peloton at an unexpected point on stage 7, on Friday, was caused by a moto.

The UAE Team Emirates overall contender was very lucky to come back from that. He was forced to hit the front of the group he was in to help close the gap.

Nairo Quintana stopped for a natural break and was stranded with Martin. He had his Movistar team mates come back for him. Only for that Dan Martin may have lost time.

Writing in the Irish Times Martin acknowledged he rode his luck, but complained that only the motorbikes could have caused the split.

“There was a headwind at the time and with those conditions there shouldn’t be gaps opening in the peloton,” he wrote.

“I don’t know for sure what the reason was but if you asked me to guess I would say TV motorbikes.

“At times they get way too close and drag the riders along in their draught, ramping up the speed.”

If confirmation emerges that Dan Martin has made a complaint specifically about the stage 8 allegations, we will bring that to you.

Some riders may believe the TV motos inadvertently influenced the racing yesterday, but nobody can deny Alaphilippe’s strength in recent days; he has been awesome. He already has a stage win and now is into yellow for a second time.
Pinot has also looked very strong and up for the fight. His Groupama-FDJ team only lost 12 seconds to the Team Ineos squad of Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal in the stage 2 TTT. Pinot and Bernal were also in that small group that gained 5 seconds on Thomas and the other favourites on the uphill finish of stage 3. Pinot was then best at responding to Thomas when he attacked at the end of stage 6, losing just two seconds to him while the others lost a lot more. And yesterday he gained 20 seconds on all of the other favourites and a time bonus. He now leads Thomas by 19 seconds meaning he has gained 31 seconds on him since the TTT.

In the past when riders have complained they have focused on the role of the motorbike, and not the cyclists who benefited.

Many have used the logic that if the TV motorbikes position themselves in front of riders, it is impossible for those riders not to chase the bikes and benefit.

And they have also said that even if the riders don’t deliberately chase after the motos; the proximity of the motorbikes to cyclists tows those riders along.

The complaints have also been about the motos having an inadvertent influence. There is no suggestion whatever than any of the motorbike staff are deliberately seeking to influence the racing.

However, Fuglsang and Mollema were yesterday quoted in the European press making specific complaints about yesterday’s breakaway by Alaphilippe and Pinot; something Alaphilippe dismissed out of hand.

The two French riders attacked late on the stage into St Etienne. They were unable to catch lone leader Thomas de Gendt, but they got to within six seconds of the Lotto-Soudal stage winner on the line.

The crucial fact was the time Alaphilippe and Pinot gained on the main favourites; some 20 seconds.

That put Alaphilippe back into the yellow jersey. And it meant Pinot gained very valuable time which, as a potential winner of this race, may prove very important for him.

“I just missed out as the two Frenchmen followed the (motorbike) over the top,” Fuglsang said of Pinot and Alaphilippe attacking over the late climb.

“So even though we were part of the lead group behind, we couldn’t catch them.”

Asked if he felt the French pair were aided by the TV moto, Fuglsang said: “Yes, we could see that when we sat down behind. We can see that they’re behind the motorcycle.

“I was a little surprised at that moment when they attacked. I should not have been so far up but should have instead been further back and closer to them. But that’s how it is.”

Mollema was even more pointed in his remarks. And he was clearly very frustrated about what he believed was the influence of a motorbike.

“It’s really ridiculous. I talked to the race jury on the way,” he said of the alleged influence of the moto on stage 8.

“The television bike was in front of the peloton for one second the whole time. In a descent, that’s a big difference.

“It’s a pity they don’t pay attention to that. Maybe it was the same in the lead group, but this really affects the course of the race.”