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The 103rd Tour De France begins on 2nd July, and for the first time ever, all bikes will undergo thermal imaging.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) will conduct up to 4,000 tests using thermal imaging cameras, placed at unknown points along the Tour’s route. As a sport, cycling has been rife with incidences of doping through performance-enhancing drug use, but this ‘mechanical doping’ is a new means of altering a performer’s ability.

Mechanical doping came to the forefront of the UCI’s mind following the suspension of 19 year-old Femke Van den Driessche. Driessche was a champion under 21s cyclist, who encountered difficulties with her bike during a race. She pulled over to have her bike inspected, at which point loose cables were visible, prompting a more thorough investigation. Mechanics found that a motor was hidden inside the bike, activated via Bluetooth buttons on the handlebars. While Driessche claimed it was a friend’s bike and that she did not use the motor, the UCI’s zero-tolerance policy found her at fault and banned her from cycling for six years.

Engineering applicants should consider the thermal imaging technology, and think about other ways bike tampering or modification could be tested.

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