Two teenagers sentenced to 18 months for theft of Italian track bikes at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in October
A Lille court on Friday sentenced two teenagers to 18 months in prison for their role in the theft of 22 bikes belonging to the Italian national athletics team.
The men sentenced for their part in the robbery, which took place during the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in October in Roubaix, were identified as Franko T., an 18-year-old Frenchman, and Valerijo H., an Italian from 19 years old.
The duo were part of a gang that raided a minibus parked at the Italian team’s hotel on the night of October 22, two days before the end of the World Track Championships. Despite the security of the hotel, deliberately chosen by the Italian delegation for its private guarded car park, the thieves left with equipment worth up to £ 500,000.
Four of the stolen bikes were special gold painted Pinarellos ridden by the country’s Olympic and World Championship-winning men’s pursuit team, led by Filippo Ganna, and valued at £ 25,000 each, while many featured handlebars 3D printed titanium pieces worth £ 8,500 alone.
The loot was discovered by Romanian police less than a week later as part of a large-scale drug operation. Police arrested the criminals, who were selling the bikes, in a raid on 14 properties in Vrancea County which also found TVs, cellphones, drugs and around £ 2,300 in cash. 20 people were initially arrested in connection with this operation, and four were kept in police custody.
According to Le Journal de Saône-et-Loire, French investigators were able to identify Franko T.’s fingerprints, while phone records were traced to two houses in Lille where police found packaging in the Azzurri colors of the Italian brigade, a van used in the heist, and a coffee maker identical to the one stolen from the team’s van. Lawyers for the defendants claimed they were “amateurs” and “scapegoats” who had been persuaded to unload and store the bikes by a more organized and professional criminal gang.
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Despite the theft, Italy was able to continue racing during the last weekend of the Worlds in Roubaix as the team’s remaining bikes were stored in the velodrome. Elia Viviani’s victory in the knockout race, two days after the heist, ended a successful but disturbing week for the team as they left Roubaix with four gold, three silver and three bronze.