Cycling

Tour De France to Ban Radios in Two Stages

PARIS - JULY 27:  Yellow Jersey overall race winner Carlos Sastre of Spain and Team CSC Saxobank celebrates on the podium during Stage Twenty One of the Tour de France on July 27, 2008 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Onno KluytContributor IJune 25, 2009

ASO, the organizers of this race, plan to ban the radios between riders and team cars for stages 10 and 13 in the upcoming race in July. Ever since the radios appeared in pro-cycling some years ago, discussion has taken place on the merits of this technological advance.

 

On the pro side arguments like "you can't stop technological advances" and "improved communication between the team improves the quality of racing." Arguments on the other side largely center around the devices making races too predictable and to let riders think for themselves.

 

Stage 10 is a flat stage which will most likely be decided in a bunch sprint. Stage 13 has some moderate climbs early on and so could be interesting for long escapes.

 

Neither stage is expected to impact the general classification. As such, ASO has chosen two "safe" stages to try this experiment. Although, experiment, we have a good century of exciting racing behind us without the aid of these devices but it may be quite novel to the younger riders. 

 

ASO expects, hopes, to see exciting and adventurous riding in these two stages where individual riders take their own chances without the benefit of full, strict guidance from team directors and road captains. I hope ASO's hopes will be answered.

 

Several of the participants in the race seem not to appreciate ASO's initiative. Both Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel twittered their misgivings, with the latter calling it a return to prehistorical times. Dutch racers Steven de Jongh and Koes Moerenhout also disagreed.

 

I am very much looking forward to these two stages. To have the riders make decisions on the spot with the information available from their viewpoint from their position in the race will be very interesting. And of course, team directors still have the ability to direct by driving up next to their riders and give instructions. 

 

Races where riders made or had to make their own calls can often be memorable and lead to results that otherwise would not have come about. One favorite example is Eric Dekker's win over Lance Armstrong in the Amstel Gold Race.

 

Ignoring team orders to drop back and wait for the group with Michael Boogerd, Eric continued their two-man escape eventually beating Lance in the sprint. And some years back in the amateur world championship race a rider passed the finish line celebrating not realizing a solo rider had been in front all this time.

 

Sadly, Eric didn't return the favor as Rabobank team director: instructing Sebastian Langeveld to fall back while leading this year's Omloop Het Volk race with Heinrich Haussler of Cervelo Test Team. And Sebastian listened... 

 

I believe less coaching during an event is great. Let us admire racers not only for purely their physical abilities but also for their insight and courage.

 

Some of it will go wrong from a team director's perspective but some actions may lead to unexpected results and in either scenario we fans and spectators enjoy a higher entertainment value. 

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