|The smile gets wiped off|
Who won today’s opening stage of the Tour of Majorca, the Trofeo Palma de Mallorca? The answer: nobody.
The riders took the start, completed the race and Tyler Farrar was the first to cross the finish line. But the race has been declared void since many of the riders were using two-way race radios, against a new rule for 2011 that only permits them in World Tour races.
In other words, we’ve seen a giant training ride, only one that was a farce given the roadside spectators, the expenditure by the race organiser, not to mention the TV broadcasters as well as a couple of crashes.
I appreciate the teams and their umbrella group the AIGCP don’t like the new rule, nor do they like the way the rule has been introduced: suddenly and without proper consultation.
But as I’ve said before, this is about more than the use of radios and the opposition of safety concerns and more exciting racing. Pro Cycling, for all its talk of globalisation and multinational brands, behaves like a bunch of teenagers who keep testing their parents limits. This time it’s the turn of the teams to push back at the UCI, if they can say “you have to talk to use before you change a rule” then it’s a short step to authoring the rulebook yourself and shaping the sport as you see fit. In other words if the UCI retreats on the radios, then soon it might find the teams are calling a lot more shots.
One point to note is that I fear some riders are being manipulated here. Some, but far from all, are being whipped into worry about safety when their team managers are more interested in grabbing a slice of the Dollar cake, in playing politics with the UCI. The safety debate has an impeccably moral tone but underlying it is money. This doesn’t apply across the board but it is a factor.
In the meantime, I’d really like to see this debate handled sensibly. Embarrassing a friendly season-opening race in Majorca is a dumb way to go. Now the teams will say “our guys raced but it was the UCI commissaire who cancelled the result” but that’s teenage squabbling. If there’s a problem then it should be discussed directly and if you want to protest, do it directly: the teams can withhold payment to the UCI. Spanish races are already fragile and using them as a stage to score points is not the way forward.