Blame the Americans. Since electronics and phone company Motorola sponsored 7-Eleven, they developed a two way radio system that allowed riders to communicate with the team managers following in cars during events. Race radios are now seemingly compulsory throughout the peloton, that is until next year when the UCI wants them outlawed, to general outrage from riders and team bosses, as to why the UCI would be so incredibly mean in trying to make the sport more, er, sporting.
What is the teams and riders problem? Can they not see how stagnant the 'racing' has become? This sport of bicycle racing should first and foremost be about providing entertainment for the fans based on the simple concept of man and machine against the clock, with all other things being equal*. We want to see those brave enough to go on a break actually stop away from the peloton. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Well, that's how it stands at the moment. Look at last years Tour De Snooze. We are not cycling experts, just borderline obsessive fans. But here are the views of two bona-fide cycling greats, who are both vocal in their opposition to the continued use of radios. Moreno Argentin says this "with race radios, the cyclists seem driven by a joystick" And this is what Jeremy Roy said in an interview recently:
"Concerning the two-way radio, I don't really understand why the teams and the riders wake up only now. The rule was known since the end of 2009 with a ban of two-way race radio in 2010 for class 2 races, in 2011 for HC and class 1 and in 2012 for the ProTour races. Personally I'm against the use of two-way race radio, so I like this rule. The rider gets more responsibility, the group as a whole and the team work get more important and it's no longer a radio guided thingy. That doesn't mean that their won't be any further races which will be controlled by the sprinters teams! We know how to get organised, use our brains and ride without race radios!
Concerning the strikes, I think it's a pity for the organiser of the race who becomes the victim. It's another bad thing for the image of the cycling sport. Like in politics, the UCI has the power to decide alone about new rules, someone has to be the boss. Indeed, sometimes I think the groups representing the cycling world (riders, teams, organisations) should be consulted to set up a dialogue"
These sentiments were echoed by FDJ boss Marc Madiot here. Chapeau to them for seeing and talking sense.
One of the arguments for race radios is safety for the riders. Changes in the roads and conditions can be relayed up to the riders to reduce the risks they face on the road. But hang on a minute here Mr Pro Road Racer! Spare a thought for all us non-pros who ride when we can for the fun of it! Do we get closed roads? So you have to deal with a team car or two coming past, we plebeians have dirty great HGVs and coaches running us into the gutter on every frigging ride. And just to recap, since when has bike racing ever been a safe sport? Flying down a mountain at 60mph wearing lycra is never going to win any safety awards, as good ol' Voigt can testify.
On twitter this evening, Robbie Hunter has been having a good old whinge about the ban for this weekends European season opener in Omloop:
Riders don't wanna boycott the races ppl.We race! just we start with radios in our ears! Anyways these are my opinions as a pro & I want em!
Ppl come to races to watch riders not UCI so please stay away it does not affect us.the riders are with the race organizers not against them
Seems UCI not happy & wanna cancel race.News to uci!to hold a race all that's needed is riders a road & race organizer!UCI NOT NEEDED!
We have several issues with these statements. UCI want to cancel the race? Is that because this incoming ban has been known for two years and you've done nothing constructive to get your collective (as riders) point across until you decide you might wear radios anyway, thus nullifying the race? Very clever. Next, people come to watch racing, not racers. Bike riders change but the event remains the same. Don't be so pompous Mr Hunter. It doesn't matter who the riders are so long as the racing is entertaining. His last tweet proclaims he wants a radio in his ear. Maybe that is to keep his minuscule brain from spilling out through an ear? Surely he has enough mental capacity to be able to discuss with his team mate a strategy to follow, with contingency plans, for the duration of a race? Maybe not? Maybe in his next life he will be reincarnate as a hamster, destined to run in a wheel ad infinitum? And as for not needing the UCI, is he being serious? Who would try to control and implement a drug testing program? Maybe that's the real reason the pro pack want rid of the UCI; let the pros have their way and the REFC would be exonerating drugs cheats left, right and centre.
peloton can't see how from the Armstrong era, the Tour De France has pretty much become a tedious procession. Think of the greats of the past, Anquetil, Mercx, Hinault, Indurain never had radios, never needed telling of a roundabout up ahead, didn't need telling how to ride their races. Lets actually agree with the UCI for once, and get behind this decision to make racing more honest and enjoyable.
On a final note, why cant the Johan Bruyneels and Robbie Hunters of the radio debate be so vociferous against doping? That's the real issue concerning professional bike racing that we all want eradicating from our sport. Race radios, compared to doping, is small dollar, but again its us, the paying punter and bike race loving cyclist who is being short changed.