If you were reading the cycling news back in March and April, one ongoing saga was the story of race radios. I’ve had a couple of readers email for the latest. To recap race radios are the portable devices carried by riders that allow two-way comms with the team car. The UCI had banned them for 2011 except in World Tour races and in time trials too.
The idea is that radios allow teams to organise and shut down breakaways, thus making the sport more boring to watch and therefore banning radios could make racing more unpredictable for TV viewers. Like any change, some liked it and some didn’t and those against the ban started to protest and a couple of races almost didn’t go ahead. At times it was about more than the radios, it was an issue on which some team managers decided to push back at the UCI in order try and ensure they have a say in how the sport is run.
After a partial ban in 2011, the plan was to ban radios in every race for 2012. But this won’t be so.
Same rules, different year
2012 will see the same rules as 2011 in terms of when radios can and can’t be used. In other words, not in smaller races but they are ok for all races on the main World Tour calendar, like the big classics and grand tours.
If the rules on the use of radios remain the same, the punishment for breaking the rules has been upped substantially. Here’s the new rule.
2.2.024 Any rider breaching this Article shall be sanctioned by being prohibited from starting, removed from the race or disqualified, as appropriate, and subject to a fine of CHF 100 to 10,000. Any team breaching this Article shall be sanctioned by a fine of CHF 100 to 10,000 and the sports director and all team vehicles will be prohibited from starting or removed from the race. An infringement committed by a rider leads to the irrefutable presumption of an infringement committed by the rider’s team. The sanctions imposed on a rider and the sanctions imposed on his or her team are cumulative. An infringement is committed as soon as a rider or team appears at an event in possession of the equipment prohibited by this Article. If the prohibited equipment is removed before the start of the event, the rider or team may start and only the fine will apply. If a further infringement is committed during the same event, the result will be removal from the race or disqualification and a further fine of up to CHF 20,000 for a rider and CHF 200,000 for a team.
The short version is that the fine for using a radio at the wrong time sees the rider and their team hit but if they ditch the radios then they can go ahead and race. If they don’t then additional rules allow the UCI or the race commissaires to suspend the whole race. It seems the UCI is trying to ensure protests don’t happen, the sight of a stand off between teams and commissaires was farce that held innocent race organisers hostage.
Like 2011, 2012 will see radios banned in smaller races. However anyone trying to protest or use a radio in contravention of these rules could see a big fine and the race could even be abandoned. The UCI seems keen to prevent any more protest. These small radios became a big story in 2011 but with the harsher rules for 2012 the UCI will be able to throw the book at any protesters.