Something rotten in Aigle

[Note 1: This post is based on a recent commentary to a piece discussing the UCI radio ban.]
[Note 2: Enough of Academia for a while. Time to bring out more cycling pieces.]

Cyclingnews recently had yet another story on the much-debated radio ban issue. While it has received attention from many in the upper echelons of the sport (this piece by Gerard Vroomen of Cervélo comes to mind), I believe that the amateur racers are the ones most negatively affected by the lack of electronic communication - and I say this while wholeheartedly agreeing with all the points presented by my colleagues in the professional ranks. See, a ProTour race will typically have an armada of commissaires ahead of the race, police escort on motorbikes, and a large number of team cars following. If a rider breaks away, or drops back, with sufficient likelihood he won't be entirely on his own across some desolated landscape. On the other hand, and I speak with sufficient experience from events across South America and Eastern Europe, amateur races may sometimes have only one or two cars with race officials, and most teams, if at all, can only afford one car to follow the race. In these situations, the ability to convey a message to your team becomes crucial, lest one is left stranded in the middle of nowhere with over 50km to the nearest village - a situation that happened to me once in Northern Uruguay.

Also, to the argument presented by the UCI, that radios take away from the excitement and tactical unpredictability, I guess this makes even less sense in the amateur ranks, where the performance spectrum among competitors in a typical race is much broader than in the typical ProTour race - I assume the pro field is much more homogeneous, though this may be up for argumentation. Nevertheless. The few amateur teams capable of summoning their riders up front to coordinate a chase and bring back a breakaway group already do so independently of radios; I'd venture to say that the only occasion when the lead riders gain a significant, multi-minute advantage on the (amateur) field is when the stronger riders are riding in it; and would hold such lead independently of exact splits being communicated by radio or otherwise to the peloton behind.

Unfortunately, amateur riders have very little leverage to question or protest such rulings (and don't get me started on the material regulations!), and rely on the voice of our pro representatives in the hope that the concerning decisions will eventually trickle down to the lower ranks. Perhaps it's time the concerned amateurs voice their opinion, if not to the Aigle officials of the UCI, then to the responsible regional and national federations, which could still overturn the ban for the sake of improved racing and safety conditions.

No comments: