Guilty as Charged?
As if losing their rising superstar Remco Evenepoel to a horrific crash in the Giro di Lombardia, Deceuninck-Quick Step now have the added “issue” of “the bottle.” What was the wee white bottle removed slyly by Davide Bramati and slipped into a pants pocket? What was in it? It’s been called a bidon but not what we tend to think of when we think bidon. This was no standard issue water bottle but more of a small flask.
Was it drugs as so many are speculating? Frankly, I doubt it. Deceuninck-QuickStep boss Patrick Lefevere is not stupid enough to juice up his star young rider with 50kms to go in a race he was favored to win. Winning a Monument at age twenty and then failing a drug test could have serious ramifications for the rest of Evenepoel’s career. The official team response was “As has already been stated publicly, the item that was captured being removed from Remco’s pockets was a small bottle containing nutrition products and was removed in order to help him to be placed more comfortably by medical staff on the stretcher.”
What was it then? Was it a late race “pick me up” of caffeine, B12 and whatever to give a late-race jolt? Maybe. But I don’t think it’s anything new. Look at this picture of Bernard Hinault descending the Croix de Fer in the 1986 Tour. Look at his rear left pocket. What’s that wee bottle? It sure isn’t a regular bidon. It’s more of a small flask. I’ve never seen pictures of a rider being handed such a bidon or drinking out of such a container. And Hinault never failed a drugs test.
In the wonderful 1962 French film, Vive le Tour, by Louis Malle, the riders are featured after another hot day in the saddle. Most are drenched in sweat, gaunt and exhausted. They talk openly about being “charged” with coffee and caffeine, stating that “it all gets sweated out.”
Maybe Bramati was safeguarding one of the best kept secrets in the peloton: a late race “jolt” that’s better than a gel but not enough to get you into trouble. Cycling has enough problems with public perceptions of the riders “all doping” — a hangover from the Armstrong years — but with an exciting crop of young riders coming through, some secrets are still best kept.
Ed: Wiscot provided me with the link to this video in a separate conversation but I thought it worth adding here. Some telling moments and comments from the past and as Wiscot said – some great jerseys. Hopefully, we can be thankful that medical intervention would be likely these days before a rider got into the sort of state as shown in the video.