Pogacar takes another stage as police raid Bahrain victory hotel in drug investigation

Overall leader Tadej Pogacar again proved his dominance in the Tour de France when the defending champion won a second mountain stage in a row on Thursday after police raided the hotel rooms of the Bahrain Victorious cycling team in a doping investigation.

In this short, steep mountain stage, Pogacar outperformed his two closest rivals, Jonas Vingegaard and Richard Carapaz, just like in the mountaintop final the previous day.

Pogacar’s victory came after French police searched the hotel rooms and team bus of the Bahrain Victorious cycling team competing in the Tour de France in an anti-doping attack that lasted several hours overnight.

The raid took place late Wednesday and lasted until about 2 a.m., sources close to the dossier told AFP in Pau on Thursday.

Bahrain Victorious has won two stages on the 2021 edition: Slovenian rider Matej Mohoric claimed the seventh stage and Dylan Teuns was victorious on the eighth stage.

The team’s climbing specialist, Wout Poels of the Netherlands, smiled grimly as he stood on the front row of stage 18 in the polka dot king-of-the-mountains jersey on Thursday.

The team’s press officer said his team had complied with everything asked of them and that they were now expecting an explanation for the raid.

Files seized

The Movistar team was in the same hotel as Bahrain Victorious, but no searches were made for the Spanish team during the nighttime operation in the southern Basque city of Pau, a gateway to the Pyrenees and known for its French Top 14 rugby team.

The police unit involved confirmed the raids and said the drivers’ files had been seized.

The team’s sports director, Croatian Vladimir Miholjevic, said his riders were shocked.

“After phase 17, we were greeted by several French police officers. We were not ordered to read through, but the team complied with all the officers’ requests,” he said.

“The process impacted our riders’ recovery and meal planning,” he said after being temporarily denied access to team facilities overnight.

The outfit, which leads the Teams standings and may be lining up for two trophies at the final Tour de France ceremony in Paris on Sunday, said they had cooperated fully with police.

“We are committed to the highest level of professionalism and compliance with all legal requirements,” he said.

Preliminary stages

Police told AFP that the affair was at a preliminary stage.

“A preliminary investigation has been opened to determine whether or not there has been any acquisition, transport or possession of prohibited substances,” the Marseille-based police unit dealing with public health issues overseeing the case told AFP. .

The team has had excellent results in recent races such as the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France warm-up, the Criterium du Dauphine.

The chairman of the anti-doping group Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC) told AFP that much remains to be done in the fight to find cheaters.

“We see that there are doping controls, but the doubts linger, we have to try to dispel those doubts,” said Roger Legeay.

The Bahrain team was founded in 2017 and qualified for the elite World Tour in its inaugural season.

Slovenian team manager Milan Erzen, whose name was mentioned in the “Aderlass” investigation into an international blood doping ring, has strenuously denied previous anonymous allegations of doping by the Bahrain team.

The Tour arrives on the Champs-Élysées on Sunday.

( Jowharwith AFP)

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