AIGCP defiant in the face of radio ban, while UCI stands firm
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Monday, January 17, 2011

AIGCP defiant in the face of radio ban, while UCI stands firm

by Ben Atkins at 1:44 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Cycling teams association rejects the outlawing of transmitters “in the best interests of the sport”, while UCI claims the “future of the sport is at stake”

uciThe Association of Professional Cycling Teams (AIGCP) has issued a statement, defiantly rejecting the extension of the ban on two-way radios in races, according to AFP. The ban has been in force in junior and under-23 race for some years and in 2010 it was extended to one-day races ranked 1.2 and below and stage races ranked 2.2 and below; in 2011 the ban is supposed to extend to 1.1, 2.1, 1.HC and 2.HC races, with the WorldTour (the new name for the ProTour) to be added in 2012.

“We, the teams cannot accept, and will not accept, the non-use or prohibition of radio communication transmitter in class 1 and HC [hors category] races in 2011, nor in WorldTour races in 2012 and beyond,” says the statement.

“This is why we believe that it is in the best interests of the sport of professional cycling to continue to use radio transmitters,” it continues, “which is why we will continue to use them.”

The issue of radios polarises opinions on both sides; those against a ban argue that it helps to maintain rider safety, with directors able to warn their teams of approaching hazards; those in favour of a ban claim that with everyone constantly on the end of the line to their team cars the riders have become little more than pawns in a game of chess between the directors. Breakaways are generally caught within sight of the line as sprinters’ teams are constantly informed of the time gaps.

There are also claims that directors warning riders of upcoming hazards actually makes the race more dangerous. Without radios the riders trust and rely on each other to point out obstructions in the road, narrow bridges and other hazards. Under current conditions, all 25 team directors in a race can potentially order their teams to the front of the peloton to pass through a hazardous section; the subsequent acceleration and jostling as up to 200 riders all try to move forward creates even more crashes, some claim.

While the AIGCP appears to be speaking for the vast majority of teams, opinion among the riders is far more divided on the subject. Le Monde reports that a recent poll among the members of the Professional Cyclists Association (CPA) saw an inconclusive majority of 207 riders out of 344 voting in favour of the unrestricted use of radios (~60%); although only 40 riders actually voted for a total ban.

“I hope that the riders’ voices are listened to,” said Italian former rider Gianni Bugno, the president of the CPA, according to Le Monde, “It’s more important to allow freedom of choice on the wearing of an earpiece than to impose a ban.”

Much of cycling’s technical regulations, including those on the subject of bike design, are influenced by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which reportedly prefers to see the emphasis put on the battle between athletes, not the technology.

“Firstly the International Olympic Committee is very careful about the materials used in Olympic disciplines,” explained Philippe Chevalier the French head of the road department of the UCI to Le Monde. “Radios are unpopular [with the IOC] because they affect the competition too much and so they endanger the membership of cycling in the Olympic family.

“If cycling were to leave the Olympic family,” he added, “many federations would lose their economic means; so actually, the future of cycling is at stake.”

“The second criterion concerns the competition itself,” Chevalier continued. “It is established that bicycle racing has become dependent on orders from their car by team managers. Scenarios are often identical, and if we believe that the absence of radios will not change the result... we must ensure the quality of the competition.

“The decision is taken, we will not back down, and next year the removal of radios will be extended to events in the WorldTour calendar.”

With opinions on both sides apparently so divided on the subject, we could be in for some confrontations between riders, directors and commissaires as the season gets under way this month.

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