|Not over, nor out|
There’s an argument between the teams and the UCI over the use of race radios, with the UCI wanting to ban their use in every race bar the World Tour calendar during 2011 and in all races from 2012. It’s now coming to a confrontation with the team association the AIGCP. In a blunt press release, the teams state:
“We, the teams cannot accept, and will not accept, the non-use or prohibition of two-way radios in class 1 and HC races in 2011, nor in World Tour races in 2012 and beyond… we believe that it is in the best interests of the sport of professional cycling to continue to use radio transmitters… …which is why we will continue to use them.“
The teams are not united on this issue, for example I believe FDJ’s Marc Madiot is happy with the idea of a ban. Nevertheless the majority of teams are in favour of keeping the radios. Indeed the statement above is forceful stuff with the teams saying they’ll keep using radios no matter what the rules say.
On the opening stage of the Tour of San Luis in Argentina, the Liquigas team refused to attend the signing on ceremony in protest at the ban. This suggests Liquigas aren’t using radios and reduced to a petty protest.
But assuming the big teams insist using radios then this sets up a direct confrontation with the UCI. And I suspect the teams will win. Why? Well because the sport can’t happen without the teams. And whisper it but every time the UCI tries to put its foot down it gets kicked back.
Back in 2008 the UCI was unhappy with Paris-Nice being run under the rules of the French federation after race organiser ASO decided to take the event away from the UCI calendar. The UCI gave grave warnings and riders even got personal emails from President Pat McQuaid telling them not to take part. Only nothing happened, indeed we got a very good race and the UCI went away with its tail between its legs.
Just as Stalin once asked “The Pope? How many divisions does he have?”, asserting his idea that moral authority was meaningless compared to military power, we see the UCI power is actually limited. The 2008 dispute revealed that whilst the UCI is the guarantor of the rules and can only rule by consent. As such the governing body can’t always enforce its own rules if powerful sections within the sport decide to challenge it. ASO is of course a massive player in the sport
2011 and beyond
The teams are also big players and just the UCI struggled to tell ASO what to do, it risks a fight it can’t win over race radios. After all, what can the UCI do, ban the teams?
|Tag team: McQuaid & Rumpf vs Vaughters|
A common theme
The years come and go but these disputes tend to have shared aspects.
- First the UCI manages to impose something with little consultation. Rather than dialogue and consultation, teams discover the ban as a fait accompli. There’s no appeal or olive branch.
- Next, we get megaphone warfare, with a salvo of press releases being fired off from both sides. These help define the argument but entrench the stand off, thus proving there is still no dialogue.
- Finally both sides back down and usually the more powerful side wins.
I sense that this is about more than the radios. Some team managers are keen to pick a fight with the UCI in order to expand the influence of the teams within the sport. Frustrated by sudden changes in rules over rankings and qualification for major races, several teams are happy to use the issue of race radios as a stick to beat the UCI. By using this technical clash over the race rules as a testing ground, some want to push back the governing body and force it to retreat over recent empire-building ventures. In short, this is about more than a pocket radios.