Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Radio Silence

You may know that UCI has prohibited the use of race radios for riders for the 2011 season. This was not well received by the pro pack and there have been incessant complaints, threats of strikes and various proposed boycotts. The teams and their riders contend that radios are needed for safety, but that argument holds little water as cycling has thrived for almost a century without radios.

UCI says the use of radios changes the way races are run and makes them less interesting. I tend to agree and if you read Johan Bruyneel's book you will find plenty of examples to support that idea. It is somewhat ironic that Johan is one of the strongest proponents of race radios and one of the most vocal UCI critics on this matter.

But if riders can find out where competitors are and what state they are in, or even have access to up to date expected arrival times based on speed, then they do ride differently. A lot of the tactics you learn in racing -such as getting out of sight- fall by the wayside when others are wired, and that really is a shame in my opinion.

The situation is a bit more complex when a mishap occurs. With radios riders can summon the team car when they suffer a flat. Without radios they often have to wait for long periods of time. One could argue that that is not fair. But then again, that is the way cycling has worked almost since its inception. In the earliest days, riders were expected to fix their own problems, and they were not allowed to use outside help. The same rule applies in triathlon today.

USACycling at first, decided to allow race radios in the US. But yesterday, they changed their minds and started following UCI rules.

Some organizers too have joined in the battle, often siding with teams and riders. The E3 Prijs will allow radios on Saturday, in defiance of UCI rules.

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