Pro-Radio's Missed Opportunity

Jul 14 2009

17321518Today’s stage, and the radio-inspired protest that dominated most of it, was one of the most foolish things I’ve ever seen at the Tour de France—and yes, I am including the Giuseppe Guerini incident in that list. And, lest we forget, I am adamantly pro-radio.

All the proponents of race radio had to do was play along with the premise: have a single bike race without radios. The stage had almost no potential for GC impact (apologies if Leipheimer and Wiggins are still stinging from missing the split), and baring an event of Merckxian scale, fans and organizers alike would see removing the radios does little, if anything, to shake up the routine of break-and-catch.

But instead, riders chose not to race at all. Riders union head and vocal critic of non-radioed racing Jens Voight made no mention of it after the stage, but Eurosport had it form reliable sources that the inexplicably slow tempo, the day after a rest day, was indeed a protest.

Tom Boonen called it “…a perfect opportunity for riders to make a statement…” but noted that “…everyone has different interests, and nobody knows what’s going to happen,” which seems like the sort of thing you’d say when you had agreed to a collaborate, but weren’t sure if someone was going to defect.

Johan Bruyneel’s comments post-race were almost smug: “The reason behind having no radios was to have more attractive racing and that’s obviously not what happened.”

The problem is that this protest is going to backfire. Refusing to test their theories will only make the advocates of radio-free racing more adamant that radios are stultifying riders and races alike. And because the peloton has shown unwillingness to do something as harmless as running a flat Tour stage radio-free, organizers or officials now have little other recourse but to ban them outright for the entirety of an event—or, God forbid, a season.

Riders like Grischa Neirmann had the right idea. The point of protest is to publicly highlight the shortcomings of your opponents position, and to that end, the best protest the pack could have given today was an earnestly-contested race, with lots of post-race quotes about how the radios didn’t make a lick of difference. Their failure to so much as attempt it only makes it more likely this conflict will resurface in the future.

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6 Responses to “Pro-Radio's Missed Opportunity”

  1. A BARR 15 July 2009 at 9:24 am #

    Yesterday’s performance was an absolute disgrace! I am completed disgusted by the riders and their arrogance and the arrogance of certain Directeur Sportif’s was smug in the extreme. Lost A LOT of respect for them today!!!

  2. Frankielof 15 July 2009 at 12:13 pm #

    A BARR, I’m not sure if you are disgusted by the riders lack of solidarity about the no-radio stage, or the fact that they raced at a relatively pedestrian 23.6 mph on stage 10. I have to agree with Cosmo, racing with radios does not take away from the sport. Unfortunately there are many within the ASO and UCI that try to hold the sport back from progress and won’t be happy until five speed cassettes, friction shifters and steel frames can be forced back on the peloton.
    Really, the riders should have been a little for vocal. Maybe riding a little slow was not the best answer, but the break was not stretching their advantage so why would a team focused on the sprint want to bring them back any sooner than they needed to?? In the end this stage ended with the same result as any flat, sprinter stage with a radio. The break was caught with 2K to go and the sprinters teams controlled the race to the line.

  3. weaver 15 July 2009 at 11:42 pm #

    why all the fuss if the radios don’t make a lick of difference? i would think you would want to point out the differences and highlight aspects that make radio use better for racing. i for one could care less if they had radios or not. i just want see racers race.

  4. chris RAINBOW johnson 17 July 2009 at 12:47 am #

    Try getting up at 12.30 at night, knock over and smash a wine glass, wake the wife, then watch 3 and ½ hs of dismal boredom.
    All I can say is that the UCI got what they wanted technically, they have been perusing this Ideal that cycling is about the athlete, not the bike. And what we’ve ended up is a machine without the brain too!
    My argument is based on the ‘Obree’ concept. Here was an athlete who could maximise his physical potential, via manipulating his position and bike. Conceived with his, own mind and hands. A more ‘complete’ elite cyclist is hard to imagine. Yet the UCI pursued and banned all his efforts.
    So without radios the riders choose to capitulate into indignant arrogance. For the rest of us it was the loss of one best 21 days of the year.

  5. Cjxizlsr 4 July 2011 at 9:07 am #

    grapes art,

  6. Osteo 6 July 2011 at 11:04 pm #

    There’d obvious pros and cons to radios but I think it may spice things up a lot more if they’re not used. Instead of the boring, unsurprising catchment of the breakaway 1 k out!

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