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February 8, 2011
NEWS & RACING BROUGHT TO YOU BY CHAPTER2 BIKES
The debate on whether or not race radios should be used has hit another peak. In case you’re not familiar with the current rules, the UCI has forbidden race radios in all races lower than World Calendar status for 2011. This basically means that you won’t be seeing race radios during any race that’s not shown on SBS this year (thank you SBS!). To say it more formally, the ban is in effect for races ranked 1.HC/2.HC and below.
As you might have heard, there was a relatively small race last weekend called the Trofeo Palma de Mallorca where many of the teams protested by wearing the radios. In the end, Tyler Farrar won, but the race was nullified because of the standoff between officials and riders.
From what I understand, AIGCP members (the representatives from ProTeams and Professional Continental teams) voted 18-2 against the radio ban. I also read on cyclingnews that when the UCI canvassed opinions from the pro peloton, there were 304 riders who wanted to keep the radios, and only 40 backed the decision for the ban.
What does all this mean? Well, there are two issues at stake. First, there’s the obvious debate on whether or not radios should be used during races. Second, there is the issue that the riders are not getting sufficient input in the governance of cycling are now pushing back:
I’m not going to write about things that I do not know for certain and can’t back up. There could be all sorts of greater agendas at stake here and I’ve read all the conspiracy theories. If you want to read a very good blog that touches on the politics of cycling, have a look at the Inner Ring.
What I can write about however is my opinion on this radio debate based on my limited experience from being in team cars during professional level races on a few occasions. When this debate comes up, it always comes back to the riders and DS’s (Director Sportifs) wanting the radios for safety reasons. Here are some thoughts and examples of what I’ve observed with the use of race radios:
I used to have a different opinion, but after seeing what goes on in the team car I’m not convinced that banning radios will have much of an impact on the race outcome. We’ve seen some stages in the Tour de France where they’ve experimented with banning radios for particular stages and nothing out of the ordinary has happened. Sure, the riders of previous generations had to go without race radios and they made it through just fine, but I don’t see what the problem is with using this technology in the sport. From what I’ve seen, the riders know exactly what they have to do. It’s not like the team car is this strategic command center where the DS’s are telling each and every rider when to react and when to attack. It just doesn’t work like that.
I’m not sure what the underlying reason is for the UCI to exercise such authority on this issue that the teams are so clearly against. As we’re beginning to see, this debate has grown to be more of a power struggle between the riders and the UCI than it is about radios and safety.
On a separate note, riding in a team car is one of the most exhilarating experiences you could have as a cycling fan. There’s a race within a race amongst the team cars. It’s absolute chaos back in the caravan. I wish that each and every one of you could experience watching a race from a team car.