Radios=Robots & Mafia

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I don’t have all morning to comment on the radio deal. I plan to ride my bike for awhile today. But, I am aghast, but not completely surprised, that the USAC has preempted the UCI to allow radios in US races. It is stupid and wrong. The USAC does nothing to break ways with the UCI when it comes to discarding rules that have no business in our races, but on their own, makes a ruling on an issue that is a worldwide problem.

Here in the US, the team directors can’t watch the races live, on TV, while following. So in reality, by allowing the use of radios in NRC events, it gives a real advantage to the teams with their riders in the top of GC because they are the only directors with a view of the race. The cars further back in the caravan don’t have a view of the race, thus their teams are at a disadvantage. It makes for a complete unfair playing field.

You can make all the arguments you want about the need for radios for any safety reason. All those reasons are bullshit. Here are some of real reasons.

#1 Radios justify the need for some guy like Johan Bruyneel or Bjarne Riis to be at the race, in a team car following, sitting on their butts for hours upon hours. They pretty much have nothing to do than watch the race on their dash TVs if they can’t “mastermind” their tactics through a radio.

#2 Radios allow the stronger teams, and teams with one “superstar”, to beat up on the other weaker teams and riders. Think about it. There at 22 teams in the Tour de France. How many teams on a mountain stage actually need the use of their radios. Not many. So, the teams that are controlling the race, and the riders in the front, use the radios so they can be more efficient beating up on everyone else. This is laziness in my mind.

#3 Radios make riders that haven’t paid their dues look like seasoned Pros. There is a long learning curve in the sport of cycling. Radios make it so guys with the physical ability, but not the mental capacity, excel at the sport early on. And it allows guys that would have never understood the mental/tactical aspect of the sport to excel because they don’t have to make any decisions on their own. Puppets. Dumb riders shouldn’t get to win bike races.

I hate the “new” tactics of the sport. This control thing is boring-ass bike racing. Not having radios isn’t going to change that. But, it does make it harder. I am a big fan of the intellectual aspect of the sport. That has nearly become a thing of the past in most big stage races.

One of the best parts of the sport is it isn’t a given that the best rider wins on a daily basis. That is one of the reasons that they race three weeks in the Grand Tours. In theory, after that much bike racing, the best guy ends up with the shortest time.

You might know how hard it is for 9 people to be on the same page on any subject. Throw all the other outside stimuli that happens during a normal bicycle race at those same 9 guys, and it is very hard to be in sync. That is the beauty about having the right chemistry/make up of a sporting team. But, radios make it so a 9 rider group can act as one. Very easily.

Name one other sport that allows each participate to have a radio and be in contact with whoever they want. And don’t call NASCAR a sport. There isn’t one. And there is a reason for that. The reason sport works is because of the special, unpredictable happenings that occur. That is what makes cycling one of the most interesting sports to observe. You could do the same race 100 times and never have the exact same results. That is a fact. It is a great, unique aspect of our sport. Radio take away much of the spontaneity of the sport.

My brother said something that sums it up pretty well. A “One rider, one brain, rule”. I don’t know how anyone can against that.

A vision of a Tour de France team of the future according to USAC.

16 thoughts on “Radios=Robots & Mafia

  1. Noel

    I just watched the interview witth the winner of todays Paris-Nice stage. He went to Vino and asked him how they wanted to finish the race. Then he went out and did it.
    Having a radio in your ear doesn’t make or break most races. It still has to come down to riders having the legs to win. Everyone has radios so it’s still a level playing field. Big teams win more races because they have the riders to win.

  2. Jim C

    Steve, I couldn’t agree with you more. Your comments are spot on. Thanks for being such a vocal advocate of the sport.

  3. Mark

    100% with you on this one. I wish your comments would get picked up by one of the national news sites.

  4. Jim

    You are so right on this. The safety thing is a poor excuse for what they really want.
    Also, I really don’t get USAC jumping ship on this. Wonder what the hidden agenda really is??

  5. tilford97 Post author

    Noel-I have no problem with Rémy Di Gregorio talking to Vino about the finish of the race. They are members of the same team, racing the same race.

    But, I do have a problem if he was talking to Guido Bontempi or whatever Astana team director was sitting in the team car watching the race on TV. And believe me, he was. At least hearing information from that entity. I say the riders should have the information that he can “accumulate” on the road, riding the race. Not information fed to him through electronic sources.

    At the point when he communicates with his radio, Rémy becomes a robot/puppet of Guido or whoever.

    Guido already got to race his bike for a living. He shouldn’t get to race again using someone else’s body.

  6. Big E

    BOOM!!!! Steve dropping truth bombs on us all! Thanks for the very well educated opinion. It’s always a refreshing view point.

  7. e-RICHIE

    i always assumed the the radio thing was a seed planted during the motorola team era and the use of these devices went from a trial run to full on use in a heartbeat. in other words, radios were part of the sport’s americanization situation (t shirt material, these last two words atmo…). does anyone know if there was reluctance from the old guard wrt radio use? it seems to me that the europeans like to keep things a certain way (and i am okay with that) rather than acquiesce to the often loud and ugly americans.

  8. nathan leigh

    What irks me, is why include the Elite champs? Are there even team follow cars? Elites should be built around the $10K dreamer that only does a handful of NRC races a year. Now to be competitive, they will have to invest in radios for 1 or 2 races a year. Without follow vehicles, there is no gain in Safety.

    IMHO, one rider per team @ PRO races can carry a radio. Just like the NFL. It addresses the safety issue & directors driving “into the peleton”.

  9. CurbDestroyer

    One of the unique aspects of road racing is being able to breakaway to get out of sight of the other riders, and seeing how the situation gets handled.

    Most humans take the path of least resistance. So if follows that humans are more willing to chase something they can see, rather than one they can’t.

    Radios take away from the humanity of the sport. Not only can the mainfield get information on how far ahead the breakaway is, but also who is in it, and the condition of those riders by outside observation.

    It’s a lot like playing poker and being able to see everbodys hand.

  10. Paul D

    A 20$ walkie-talkie on “scan” mode with the talk button taped down should level the playing field a bit. No point in anybody having radios if all you can hear on it is the sound of my heavy breathing.

  11. dirty_juheeeeesus!

    Weisel’s broad agenda is to capture revenue for himself. There is no interest in grassroots development.

    He and Pat are still trying to package the sport and further develop the appearance of a close, ‘made for television’ contest. Radios help meet that goal.

  12. BG

    Is there a rule against radio jamming devices? And is there one available that would fit into a jersey pocket?

  13. Chainring Tattoo

    Absolutely agree! I was thinking about this topic during the ride today–while WATCH instead of LISTENING for what to do next–and realized that radios epitomize everything that’s broken in professional sports. Too much money is on the line, therefore, owners are willing to spend as much as possible. It’s basic ROI…While I hate to draw comparisons between cycling and the NFL, this is the state of sports…$$$$$.

  14. Ettore

    Ok Steve you have convinced me that the Radio ban is good for cycling. I definitely agree with points #1 and #2 and frankly I never saw it that way. Good job mate!


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