Monday, July 13, 2009

The Tour de France Radio Ban

VeloNews has an article on the growing opposition to the ban on race radios for 2 stages, including tomorrow's stage from Limoges to Issoudon. According to the article, "Two-way radios were first introduced into the peloton by Armstrong’s former Motorola squad in the 1990s and have become a crucial element of team tactics; managers communicate with riders, who race with earpieces, to advise on strategy, approaching hazards and other important information." Critics complain about the predictability that the radios foster regarding race tactics.

On other hand, Lance Armstrong states that “Technology evolves, the bike evolves, the training, the diet, everything evolves… the fabrics that we wear. Look at [reporters’] cameras, the microphones… the transponders on the bike… all of it has evolved. So we are going to go back to a place where directors will have to ride up into the peloton to give orders to riders. That is not a good thing. I remember those days, I have been around long enough to remember them, and that is stupid too. A few of the guys think it is a cute idea, but I don't agree.”
Others who support using the radios argue that it keeps the riders safe, as an oil spot on a treacherous descent can be pointed out and injuries thereby avoided.

In response to these points, consider Matt White's view (White is team director for Garmin-Slipstream):
"I’d rather we banned radios. I don’t mind if we lost radios altogether. We go through the stage everyday in the morning, and what I am telling them on the radio is only what I’ve told them in the morning, just reminding them. The Garmin units have nothing to do with the radios; we have more information on their bikes than in their ear anyways… The only difference (without radios) is that I’m not telling them in the race. We have the same tactics, the same plan before, and the boys have to think and act themselves. That’s like cycling was 10 years ago. Whatever the Tour decides, just go with it. I think it’s a bit strange doing one day. I’d rather do no radios or all radios, but as for safety issues, I don’t really see that as a problem either. The amount of times you actually tell riders there is something dangerous on the road it just creates more stress because everyone knows about it. The guys are riding five or six hours a day, you can’t point out every dangerous bit of the road, so I don’t think it’s a real safety issue. I think some of the younger guys have struggled thinking about it. They are so used to being told what to do, they aren’t used to thinking for themselves, and I think that’s going to hurt some teams more than others."

I tend to agree with White, mainly because I'd like to see the riders demonstrate some of the intellectual aspects of athletic excellence that the radios can at least sometimes prevent. But perhaps this could still occur if the riders are involved in strategy sessions prior to the race, and simply communicating with their directors about which strategy to follow given the particular circumstances that arise in a given stage?


Rob Sica said...

Tangential to the topic of your post, but of possible interest:

Why is Lance Armstrong a riding advertisement for the Kazakh government?

(The article author also appears among the comments.)

Rosemary Barnes said...

Personally, I like the idea of racing without radios. Good racing tactics are an important part of being a good cyclist, and radios really decrease the extent to which a rider is able to express themself in this way.