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September 25, 2015
Photography by Kristof Ramon
A point of debate in recent years has taken an unexpected turn with the decision announced by the UCI on Thursday to reverse the current limitations on the use of race radios in the sport.
Such technology was banned in certain events in 2010 and later expanded beyond that, leading to strong protests from teams. This in turn was followed by threats by the then-UCI president Pat McQuaid if compliance with the rule was not shown.
During the current season radios were only permitted in WorldTour events, women’s World Cup events plus time trial races.
Now, three years on, Brian Cookson’s presidency of the UCI has seen a change in stance.
Under the new announcement, article 2.2.024 of the UCI rules states that it “will allow the use of radio links or other remote means of communication between riders and their teams in the UCI WorldTour, class HC and class 1 events for Elite Men; UCI Women’s WorldTour and class 1 World Cup events for Elite Women; and time trial events.”
Race radios will remain limited in class 2 events, namely 1.2 and 2.2-ranked races.
The pros and cons of race radios have been in the news for several season. Under McQuaid the UCI argued that they stymied race tactics, enabling many decision to be called from the team car rather than decided by the riders themselves.
McQuaid stated that he hoped that a ban on radios would lead to more exciting and unpredictable racing.
He also said that there could be repercussions if this was not done.
“I was convened to a meeting with the biggest producer of television images of cycling, France Television,” he said in 2011. “[I] was told by senior executives clearly that if radios were retained in cycling and used as they were being used that the coverage of cycling on television would be reduced.”
Teams countered by claiming that race radios were of benefit to safety, enabling management to warn riders of upcoming hazards.
The UCI has also changed its rules in relation to the gathering of certain footage during races.
“Article 1.3.024 will authorise the use of onboard cameras without the need for teams and organisers to request permission from the UCI,” it stated.
Bodies such as the Velon teams’ association have previously said that they regard onboard cameras as a potential growth area in the sport, in terms of securing greater financial stability.