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Race Radios: Another Reason for Teams and Riders to Organize

Posted by bikezilla on January 21, 2011


Many think that radios used by team managers and riders to communicate during races actually water things down and make for dumber riders and less interesting racing.

Jonathan Vaughters used Twitter to say, “I do not agree with the logic that radios have created poor racing.”

I agree with him. I think radios merely create a different type or style of racing and that neither type / style is inherently better or worse than the other, but that both are worthy and both should be embraced by teams, riders, race organizers, UCI and fans.

Fans want and deserve both kinds of racing; racing with and without radios.

Radios clearly do change the dynamics of racing from a tactical standpoint.

Lack of radios does shift decision making away from managers and into the hands of the riders themselves. It does allow riders to develop more fully by forcing them to learn how to think when they don’t have a team manager / ds telling them what to do as well as when and how to do it.

What I’d love to see regarding race radios is a ban for specific stages of multi-day races, and occasionally at one day races.

It seemed that was what was proposed last year for Stages 10 and 13 of the Tour de France.

Riders responded by throwing tantrums like a bunch of five year olds, soft-pedaling Stage 10, nullifying the stage and embarrassing ASO. In order to avoid a second embarrassment ASO cancelled the radio ban for Stage 13.

This does demonstrate that riders, either through guts or unreasoning mass hysteria, DO have power over their work environment.

But, in response we now see UCI (ASO’s lap dog) pushing hard for a 100% ban in all races.

Riders have to know when to compromise and when a power struggle can blow up in their faces.

Even WITH teams and riders organized I don’t see them winning 100% on this. ASO is THE big dog in this fight and UCI is their bitch.

So why’d teams and riders have to push to make this an all or nothing issue at a time when the only possible result they could walk away with was “nothing”? Did they really expect that ASO and UCI would not respond to being embarrassed, by returning a hammer blow in exchange for the slap they received during Stage 10 at last year’s Tour? Could any of them possibly be that stupid?

Now we’ve come to the inevitable conclusion, that 100% ban which is to gradually take effect until it reaches and is completed at the highest level of professional cycling.

Riders and teams alike are shocked, dismayed, angered. But they brought it on themselves.

What to do now?

Jonathan Vaughters wrote a long and thoughtful blog article for Cycling News stating that, over time, he’s been convinced by the argument for radios increasing rider safety.

After reading his thoughts I’m inclined to believe that he’s right, and if such a readily available and reasonably affordable solution exists and is already in place, then it should be utilized to enhance rider safety.

The offhand dismissal of this by UCI and race organizers shows a hearty disdain for riders and
total indifference toward their health and safety. They seem to have a willful break with reality.

But managers and riders have their own fractured reality. They try to make us believe that their desire to keep radios has nothing to do with race tactics and organization. If you listen to them it’s ALL about safety, that’s all they really care about.

I call bullshit.

Where are their proposals for having a system of race radios that pass nothing but safety related information?

Via Twitter, Team Sky’s Mick Rogers said, Great idea, but who’s going to pay for 5+ translators to do 300+ calendar race days?”, which is an excellent point.

But considering that the alternative (at least currently) is that there are no radios at all, and that teams and riders are in something of a panic over their loss, I have to believe that the motivation exists to locate the funds.

And there are other possible solutions.

But I don’t think this is even the real issue. It’s a symptom of the real issue.

That real issue is that teams and riders have NO power, except for fleeting moments when, through anger or petulance, they briefly band together on their own behalf.

As Jonathan Vaughters said, again via Twitter, “Why are the teams/riders not part of the decision making process?”

Well, Jonathan, they aren’t part of the decision making process because UCI and race organizers HAVE the power and have no motivation to give it up or to share it.

It’s Jonathan Vaughters as president of the International Association of Professional Cycling Teams, and Gianni Bugno as president of the Association of Professional Cyclists to pull teams and riders together and GIVE UCI and race organizers a reason to share power.

IAPCT and APC are both paper tigers, though, with neither the tools nor the courage to back up their positions. They talk, they have meetings, they write articles and give interviews, they express their indignation. But what do they actually accomplish?

They are unions only in name.

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One Response to “Race Radios: Another Reason for Teams and Riders to Organize”

  1. Back in days of yore, the guy on the back of the motorcycles had chalk boards with the relevant gaps. Not detailed info. Just the group splits on the road.

    The fundamental problem with race radios is they are used to calculate closing gaps down to the last kilometer. Take that crutch away and the team has mental work to do on the road.

    That’s what I liked about road racing. Bring the mental work back into the race! Let the motos do reporting and broadcast back to the team cars.

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