Races and their Radios


Argh, okay I know I said I wouldn’t write about the race radio ban (at least on Twitter I did!), but having just read this article on VeloNews, I now can’t help myself! (For background, catch up with this, this, and this.)

I genuinely do not care whether or not the peloton uses radios. I’m writing this post because I think both sides are being ridiculous and want to call them out on it.

Firstly, yeesh, has no one ever heard of compromise? Both sides are of the “my way or the highway” mentality, with neither side willing to back down. This doesn’t seem like the best way to solve this situation!

The UCI seems to have decided to implement their decision for no other reason than because they want to. While they say they “analyzed” all the arguments, I’m interested to know what all the arguments were. In addition, they also site “scientific data” which shows the dangers of using two-way radios. I’d also be interested to know what that scientific data is. And I’m not really sure I believe it when they claim to have listened to everyone in the sport, including “riders, organizers, national federations, media, fans and sponsors,” as they chose to vote on the ban before even having a meeting with many of those they claim to have listened to (article here). So really, they just seem like a bunch of grumpy old men whining about “kids these days.”

As for those who want to keep the radios in their current format, let’s not kid ourselves-you want to keep the radios because it gives you tactical advantage. Yes, there is a safety issue and it helps protect riders. But if you were really interested in keeping the radios for the riders’ safety, you’d be open and proposing a limited use radio.

As someone who’s only started to watch racing this year, I’ve never known racing without radios. However, I wouldn’t say radios made those races boring! For me, in the end, racing is about those on the bike- their endurance and strength. The DS can say whatever he wants on the radio, but if the rider doesn’t have the strength or legs, it’s not gonna matter. There is also the matter of the things beyond human control. Sure, people like Jonathan Vaughters want the race to be “fair” and won by the strongest rider or team, and see radios as the way to do that. But when has cycling ever been fair? On stage 2 of the Tour this year, when a moto slide out on an oil slick in Spa, causing a huge pile up, was that fair? Or when Fränk Schleck crashed on the cobbles, could that have been prevented by radios? And we certainly can’t forget (or at least I can’t!) Andy’s dropped chain, Alberto’s attack, and a road too small to allow a close following support car. Those things certainly weren’t prevented by radios, and they certainly all affected the outcome of the race.

And another thing- I don’t feel like the “test” days in the 2009 Tour, or even the 2010 Worlds are a good litmus test as to how it would work without radios. Most of these guys have spent the last 15 years or so using race radios. You can’t just go from radios to no radios in one day and expect everything to be the same! They need to re-learn how to ride without radios. So don’t use a couple of one-off days to judge whether or not going radio-less is a good idea.

I understand the desire to “go back to the way things were”- I’m a historian, I get it! But you can’t make a 180 degree turn back to the past after being in the very technical present for ages. You can maybe make a 90 degree turn, but you can never go back to exactly the way it was. This is why I think, like others, a good compromise would be to have an open channel, one-way radio. This way riders can be made aware of dangers/accidents/obstacles ahead on the road, gives the DS’s a purpose in their cars, and forces the riders to use their heads AND their feet.

Both sides are acting irrational, not offering any sort of feasible solutions to the problem, and are only hurting the riders who get caught in the middle. The fate of cycling is not in the hand of the race radios- let’s spend more time focusing on how to deal with dopers.

I don’t use radios, but I do use Twitter. Follow me here.

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