Radios are now established in the pro peloton. They are really sophisticated bits of kit and have multi channels allowing discussion across the peloton. The RCUK poll asked: Should two-way radios be banned from bike racing?
What they do
Cycling teams use 2-way Radio ‘hands-free’ kits to connect team riders to each other and to the team car. You may have seen these taped to their ear or helmet strap and the wire tucks into their jersey. They are very small units and weigh next to nothing. When on the road they can tell each other about what’s happening at the back or at the front of the bunch or, when they reach the finish, where the hotel is. Sometimes they play music over them or receive phone calls from loved ones. They have huge tactical advantages when they know who has punctured or who is suffering at the back, but essentially they help teams manage logistics.
Team managers do use them a lot to discuss the tactics as the race unfolds. It has been rumoured that certain team leaders are told exactly when to ‘go’ by a coach assessing the cadence of riders around him. This combined with team managers being able to see the heart rate of their riders makes me think ‘who’s really riding the race?’
Riders make mistakes, some riders are hopeless on their own and historically major races have been lost by a lack of information about opponents getting through to the leaders. Riders with the tactical edge also loose this advantage when managers can see what they are about to attempt. If this was allowed in some sports it could be regarded as cheating.
Radios have to make it safer for the riders which is a good thing, but I think the fact that a coach can tell a rider when to attack is certainly going to spoil the race as a spontaneous event. There is no doubt that Lance Armstrong has used them to good effect in the Tour, but then again so has Ullrich and Hamilton. I think the safety angle is valid, but racing will suffer and eventually become more negative as a result. Perhaps they shouldn’t be allowed for the one day classics and championship races and reserved just for the major tours? Perhaps they should have a limited time aspect like a ‘time out’ in basketball. Whatever you think it’s a tricky subject and the UCI will probably do something sooner or later.
I quite like the idea of stopping the managers talking to riders in the final hour, but it’s such a can of worms it’s hard to decide exactly what would work best.
I certainly think younger riders should develop their racing knowledge before they become dependant on words of wisdom from their managers. After all, Eddy Merckx never needed one.
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