On Banning Powermeters

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Tour de France founder Henri Desgrange toyed with format, teams, bikes and more all the time and his spirit lives on the annual suggestions after the Tour de France to make changes to the race and the sport as a whole. His successor Christian Prudhomme says power meters should be banned in racing.

But there’s a risk with the logical fallacy that “something must be done, here’s something, we must do it”. Banning the use of power meters sounds useful but probably isn’t and above all we should be wary of quick solutions.

What is a powermeter?
A device to measure the power produced in a given moment by a rider. It’s a set of strain gauges, typically on the cranks but it can be on the pedals or the rear hub and these measure the forces applied and, via an algorithm and a radio signal, send the number to the rider’s bike computer. These devices are imperfect, the best on the market have a claimed accuracy rate of +/- 1.5% which means if you are pushing 400 watts you could equally be 394W or 406W and that accuracy is under controlled conditions, on the side of the mountain when you calibrated the device hours ago things could be further off still.

Why the calls to ban them?
The idea is that riders are looking down at their displays and riding to prescribed power, that they have a known threshold and don’t want to cross this. This can make racing boring as riders produce steady, linear efforts up mountain passes. Banning them could see riders going on instinct which might encourage more attacks, it could lead to others to unwillingly go into the red and crack and both of these things could make the racing more unpredictable, more lively.

It sounds reasonable only there are two problems. First riders don’t ride to power as much as people may think. I can’t find the quote from last year’s Giro but on his way to winning it Tom Dumoulin said he didn’t bother looking much, it was more for his coaches and managers to read afterwards. If Dumoulin isn’t big on power then think for a minute because he’s the prototype rider who sticks to tempo rather than responds to attacks. You might remember his quote from the Bergen Worlds last year where he thought his power meter was broken because he was riding so fast, a phrase which again suggests he was going as fast as he felt he could rather than being enslaved to the LCD display on his bars. This is typical of many other riders who learn to trust their legs rather than a power meter. It can be helpful to glance down and check from time to time but in the context of a race riders will probably find heart rate as useful and above all the feeling of effort matters and this is something that experienced riders learn. You don’t need a screen to announce you’re riding at your threshold.

  • One additional factor behind the clamour to ban could be Chris Froome and his awkward style when racing hard uphill. He appears to be looking down at his bike computer all the time. Only he says he’s not, “for some reason I feel when I look down I’m able to breathe a lot easier” he told Cycling Weekly.

Second, if the premise of riders riding like robots to pre-set power is false but you’re still not convinced then the second reason is because the the genie is out of the bottle. If we can calculate to a high accuracy the power of a rider by timing them on a climb then we can do the reverse. A team can derive what speed up a climb is appropriate for a given wattage. Vertical gain, often called VAM, could be used too. So riders or their coaches can work out a suitable pace for the day’s climbs during a mountain stage anyway.

It’s this second aspect that has probably done more to change tactics. It’s obvious that we can ride fast for short periods but for longer efforts the intensity can’t be sustained. A child riding in a park learns this and it has been essential to team tactics. The likes of Jacques Anquetil relied on pacing themselves over half a century ago. This has gone from art towards science with the advent of the power duration curve. Log enough rides and races and a chart builds up of a rider’s power over time, like the illustration example. Get rid of power meters and you don’t get rid of this acquired knowledge, just one means to visualise this… but again there’s speed/time, VAM and above all feeling. The knowledge that riding at a high steady tempo is quicker than going slower and responding to attacks will survive any rule changes.

Lastly if it’s a probably false premise, and if banning them wouldn’t stop steady tempo riding, then there’s a final bone to pick. Prudhomme says ban them, UCI President David Lappartient is more nuanced, telling Swiss newspaper Le Tempswe should analyse everything” but told Sud-Ouest, a French newspaper, that he wants to see them used for collecting data but not to allow riders to see their watts in real time. If I’ve suggested above that a ban probably wouldn’t make much difference it’d be good to test, to see some data on this, even some anecdotes. Only those who call for bans don’t seem to be saying “I’d be interested in testing this across several races in the season and learning what the outcome is“, they seem prejudiced from the off. This isn’t just in cycling but in all sorts of fields, take politics for example. People, be they sports officials or politicians, can be acting on good faith but all the same wouldn’t it be superior to act on evidence?

Conclusion
Ban power meters? We could but whether we should is another matter. Riders don’t use them as much as people think and there are other ways to set the pace up a long climb. A real concern is how some want to act first without testing. The only way to settle it is to have some trials, in particular races or for some stages in a race but don’t be surprised if the simple solution doesn’t change that much.

Zosim August 7, 2018 at 6:20 pm

Speaking to a few former pros and some
Coaches, most riders appear to be able to gauge their effort (on a normal day) reasonably accurately. As you said there is a bias against it which borders on the irrational from some people and I just don’t think it’s as much of a race controller as it’s thought.

Larz August 8, 2018 at 7:06 am

Moreover, if you are training with a power meter you will probably develop a pretty good feel for how much watts you are pushing at any given effort level.

Lee August 8, 2018 at 10:01 am

Totally agree. A pro rider that has racked up thousands of hours in training will have a sufficient feel for their effort level vs power output, they are professionals in their chosen sport. I suspect a lot of “ban this and ban that” perhaps comes from those who may not have raced in the pro peloton.

Things the UCi could do or try/test would perhaps be a radio ban. But certainly they need to get up to date with technology and sort out the ridiculous 6.8kg Weight limit. The world and technology has moved on considerably. If they want more money in the sport it can’t stay in the “70’s” mindset that it tends to. If they want to attract more money from F1 style companies or ones like Sky, they need to update accordingly (I think).

The GCW / Strictly Amateur August 8, 2018 at 1:49 pm

“the ridiculous 6.8kg Weight limit”

Been thinking this for years. Power meters take up weight. Reduce the min weight and it makes teams / riders have to choose which crap they carry rather than create an artificial reason to have to ADD weight.

One reason We may not see reasonable change is because bike manufacturers have influence. & 1 way that may change is after bike manufacturers have saturated the market with HEAVIER bikes and components, they then will need to inundate consumers to buy lighter weight equipment & BUY NEW BIKES.

I believe they are nearly done saturating the market with HEAVIER bikes and components; We may start to see change in weight…

One example, I’m getting near time to need new wheels and I’m not interested in 25mm or wider tires and the rims they prefer (I’m light weight and I’m climbing for nearly EVERY ride…) but it has gotten quite hard to find that stuff. The trend has been more expensive heavier wheels.

The Inner Ring August 8, 2018 at 2:15 pm

A topic for another but for now the UCI is set to reduce the weight limit but there’s lobbying from the bike industry not to go too low for fear that disc brake bikes could look too heavy in comparison to calliper brake models. Currently a lot of bikes are weighed down with extras, like power meters, deep section rims and more to make the weight limit.

gingerflash August 13, 2018 at 2:43 pm

A Stages powermeter weighs 20g. Others are not much more. I doubt the overall weight limit would persuade riders or teams to lose the power meters.

KevinK August 8, 2018 at 2:43 pm

Not sure why this is a “70’s mindset,” since into the 1990s racing bikes were typically in the 9-10 kg range. More importantly, I’m trying to understand how “F1 style companies” would flock into sponsoring cycling teams if they were allowed to spec out 5 kg bikes. If anything, such a change would push more team sponsorship money into developing weight saving tech, at the expense of team salaries. And it would further advantage the big spenders, like Sky.

More importantly, would lighter bikes make for either more exciting racing, or (more importantly) lead to more spectators/fans (and crucially more sponsors)? I can see how it might be a slight boost to the bottom line for a select group of very high-end frame/component makers, but I don’t even think it would have much effect on the general bike sales market.

Othersteve August 7, 2018 at 6:24 pm

A non-issue as the are available for everyone to use if they choose just like carbon wheels.

Ferdi August 13, 2018 at 10:35 am

The problem is that no one is mentioning one reason why powermeters or any other function in the cyclocomputer should be allowed in the first place. As a matter of principle: everything new should be banned until there is a case made that it improves racing and not from the rider or team point of view.
The case with power-metres is that there are many reasons against, more or less relevant, depending on circumstance, but not one single reason for, as Inrng has clearly shown in his good piece above. I find it especially wrong with regard to TTs, which are obviously prepared and scenarized in advance according to power projections, and where riders, such as allegedly Dumoulin, who are good at pacing themselves in agony without any data, are unfairly penalized against those who have to rely on the figures on their screens.
Como on, people, what do power-metres add to the race??

conor nagle August 7, 2018 at 6:34 pm

In my mind a bicycle is a purely mechanical device and cycling should be simple: man (or woman) and machine without any assistance. I would like to see power meters, team radios and electronic gearing eliminated.

The Inner Ring August 7, 2018 at 7:26 pm

That would be different, the sport has always involved the manufacturers from the beginning, even if Henri Desgrange had his moments against, eg supplying bikes one year or banning derailleurs in early editions.

Oreos August 8, 2018 at 7:45 am

Hear hear! Bring back the leather chamois too!

Lee August 8, 2018 at 9:55 am

Haha…. just don’t let it dry out!!

Chamois fat August 8, 2018 at 6:36 pm

+1

RQS August 8, 2018 at 9:41 am

I see you identify with the irrational opinion of the power meter then.

In as much that they may have helped to create threshold riding (though heart rate monitors and bike computers have enabled this) as pointed out, this is learnt in training and is not required in a race.

Power meters appear to be a straw man.

chava August 8, 2018 at 2:12 pm

You can argument against powermeters for a pure aesthetical or moral reason. The argument goes like this: no devices are allowed that transmit information about the bike, road, route, weather and body to the rider (or even the DS). So ban all informational computing devices, incl. ordinary bike computers, powermeters, radios. It’s you, the bike and the road, nothing else. Whether it makes for more exciting racing is besides the point.

Larry T August 9, 2018 at 11:04 am

Thanks! I’m happy that this forum has not become a place where all that happens is everyone agrees on a certain viewpoint. One of it’s strengths is a difference of opinion backed by civil, intelligent arguments and questioning of various opinions.
That is why I asked earlier “What is the downside of banning powermeters?” since that’s the topic of the headline. It wasn’t “Is there a UCI/ASO conspiracy to ensure a French winner at LeTour” So far, the responses seem to indicate not much, despite the hysteria from those who seem to believe that the interests of the bike industry should be of paramount importance and without them the sport is in danger.
The sport’s in danger now based on the TV viewing figures and lack of sponsor interest, so why not get rid of something that may be making the races less exciting and see what happens? To really test the theory out, why not try what chava suggests? LeTour has experimented with plenty of other ideas over the years, why not these? ALL of the rules are purely arbitrary, after all, that’s part of what makes it a sport .

David August 9, 2018 at 2:28 pm

In my opinion, one of the best things about road cycling as a sport is the immediacy to what I do on my bike. It’s sort of weird to suggest that professional cyclists shouldn’t have a piece of equipment that many cyclists have and use every day.

I see the appeal of “person+bike”, but that isn’t the experience of most cyclists that I meet with on the roads today

Tieske August 9, 2018 at 6:38 pm

+1

SamA August 12, 2018 at 11:07 am

Make em all do it on fixed gears with no outside support I say #keepitreal….

Tom August 7, 2018 at 6:41 pm

I’m agnostic on whether PMs make racing less exciting but I’m fairly certain they don’t make it more exciting so let’s turn the question round, why do some people have an irrational attachment to keeping PMs in pro racing? Unless you are a sports scientist or your attraction to the sport is that of a numbers obsessed nerd why not ban them? That said though if we are going to ban anything make it radios.

The Inner Ring August 7, 2018 at 7:27 pm

The radios are another topic that people want to see banned but they don’t change that much tactically, often DSs in the team car are watching TV with a 30 second delay, they’re not able to remote-control riders much.

Tim August 7, 2018 at 7:31 pm

If memory serves, they tried it as a test in a few WT races a few years ago. First race back and a giant inflatable arch gives way and causes a hazard to the riders. Very quickly the radios were back.

Safety > all other concerns

Larry T August 7, 2018 at 8:15 pm

This is one of those incidents that has become a myth I believe. What happened? Did they claim that somehow radios would have prevented the problems? When the bus was stuck under the finish line gantry the riders (despite the radios) reported knowing NOTHING about any of the problems. I believe the safety issue is totally BS. Is there any evidence these things have prevented any sort of crash or warned someone of impending doom? When the word SAFETY is trotted out it’s hard to argue against it, but I don’t believe radio earpieces do anything other than allow the DS to control the riders in ways detrimental to the sport. The “fog of war” makes things more interesting.

Kjetil Haaland August 8, 2018 at 7:42 am

Radios seem to add equal amounts of fog and clarity.

UHJ August 8, 2018 at 10:27 am

Radios do cause dangerous situations but not in the peloton or what you see on TV.
One major issue is that riders call for help – flat tire, lost bidon etc. – on the radio, which is fine, but no one outside that radio link knows about it. And the DS’ car pulls out of the convoy and heads forward fast, without warning, causing al sorts of confusion in the convoy. They use their horns but in fact in some countries this is not allowed.

Safety is an issue, not only for the riders.

Touriste-Routier August 8, 2018 at 10:57 pm

@UHJ That isn’t exactly how it works.

Yes, a rider calls for his team car, and the team car might start moving forward in the caravan, but they can’t move all the way up to the front of the caravan without the commissaires approval. When the Comm’s see a call for rider support, the request goes out over Radio Tour (which all the race caravan vehicles use), which alerts everyone in the caravan that a team car has been called for, and will be making their way forward.

Riders on other teams may not know, but since the rider who has called for service is typically dropping back, it really only affects those riders who area already back within the team cars. And they’ll hear the horns.

The caravan can be hectic, but there are protocols in UCI events, and mostly the rules are followed. At the highest levels, the teams cooperate fairly well; they are all there to do their jobs, and typically don’t interfere with each other in this regard.

The Inner Ring August 8, 2018 at 11:29 pm

Touriste-Routier, note that UHJ is a UCI commissaire 😉

NSW August 8, 2018 at 11:49 am

Another thing mentioned recently (maybe on here???) is the very good point about the increase in vertebral fractures from the past few years. The gist of it is this: you don’t have much muscle in the way of padding and landing on your back in contact with the road, another rider or another rider’s bike has been made worse because of the radio ‘box’ in the pocket of your bib shorts. It would be a very interesting study to see if these vertebral fractures show any correlation to the positioning of the race radios.
It also makes me think of Michael Schumacher’s crash and subsequent brain injury that was reportedly made worse by the camera he had on his helmet.

chava August 8, 2018 at 2:14 pm

Interesting point. I am not convinced team radios make races safer in any way.

Some DS’s are sceptical about radios as well.

Tom August 7, 2018 at 10:50 pm

Inner Ring – I agree the affect of radios may be relatively slight but I think there are some pivotal moments in races where they are more likely than not to work in the favour of the more powerful team trying to keep control and against the riders taking a risk. Banning them may not revolutionalise racing but as someone once said every little helps.

The Inner Ring August 8, 2018 at 11:31 pm

I think it can swing things towards certain riders with a tactical brain – think Philippe Gilbert for example – but the idea of remote controlled riders is a bit of a caricature.

Anton Anonymous August 8, 2018 at 6:32 am

Radios should be banned, no doubt it would change the racing. The best example was the Women’s road race at the European Championships last weekend (no radios allowed). Just watch the race again and you will see what the absence of Radios can do for racing!
All the safety talk regarding radios is overrated, safety concerns can easily be communicated over the race officials in the race.

Larz August 8, 2018 at 7:08 am

Womens road races are in general better racing than mens – as there are much more attacking. Not sure it has anything to do with radios.

mendip5000 August 8, 2018 at 9:45 am

They are shorter so the premium on measuring effort is reduced.

It does appear though that as the stakes get higher team control tactics are emerging.

Anonymous August 10, 2018 at 8:57 am

It’s down to the fact that there is a massively greater spread of individual abilities than in the men’s peleton

Marsman August 8, 2018 at 11:10 am

For me way the Women’s road race at the EC was raced, it’s the best example to have race radio’s. With no communication the Dutch chased down their own van der Breggen who had a 90% chance of winning in the break. Painstaking to watch. Amateur hour.

Anonymous August 8, 2018 at 2:20 pm

As if the Dutch team, which was a team of best women road racers, didn’t know that van der Breggen was in the break? Who do you want to sell that nonsense?

Marsman August 8, 2018 at 4:00 pm

@Anonymous: Off course they did, but they should have dropped the chase immediately Rowe was dropped by VDB and Borghini

UHJ August 10, 2018 at 11:18 am

Well, there you go: The UCI just prohibited the use of radios for the World Championships as of 1st of July 2018. That could prove to be interesting for the Innsbruck circuit.

Paul Jakma August 11, 2018 at 10:45 pm

Are/were the world championships and the olympics more exciting for lack of DS-remote-radio–control?

Jeff August 8, 2018 at 3:06 pm

+1 for turning the question around and asking it in the proper way. For all the talk about it being a logical fallacy to ban power meters (I disagree), the real logical fallacy is the “it’s allowed now, so it should continue be allowed” thinking.

On balance, I can’t think of how power meters add to the race. I know that riders can gauge their efforts in the moment and the team’s can analyze the data post-hoc. However, when it comes to the actual racing, I believe that their net effect is more of a suffocation of the race.

Larry T August 7, 2018 at 6:43 pm

What is the downside of banning these gizmos? I see the industry angle to oppose a ban but I toss that because the bike industry isn’t really interested in sport, just commerce. Radio earpieces should be ditched as well. I don’t buy the downside on that one which is most often claimed to be safety benefits, at best a dubious claim.
If I was the king of cycling, while I was at it I’d get rid of the rest of electronic gizmos including any sort of servo motor powered by any sort of energy supply other than the rider’s own efforts, even if he/she charged it up via pedaling an ergometer or using solar or wind power.
I used to think of Desgrange mostly as a draconian tyrant, but when I see all this ever more complex “evolution” and the declining interest in the sport I start to wonder if I was wrong about him?

CA August 7, 2018 at 8:14 pm

And then we should ban team cars because they use electricity and technology. In fact, riders should have to stop at the roadside and eat whatever they can find, it is unsporting to have food passed to the riders from their team cars.

Give me a break people, Froome’s style is the same as Big Migs and you all love him. If Froome didn’t have a powermeter he’d use another technique to manage his efforts.

Honestly, instead of silly ideas like this, the Tour organisers need to keep thinking up new ways to make the course exciting. This year was great and I think the last few years have had some serious excitement too.

Larry T August 7, 2018 at 8:27 pm

Speak for yourself CA, I was there for every one of BigMig’s Tour and Giro wins…and they were dull, dull, dull. But they have nothing to do with a discussion about power meters and other electronic gizmos.
I really, really get tired of the same old BS about stopping technological advancement. It’s always a) everything is wonderful as it is, we can’t stop progress or b) we must go back to wooden wheels. It’s not an either-or argument. ALL of the rules are purely arbitrary. If you want to let evolution of the two-wheeled machine go unchecked, does it mean there should be no limits? How ’bout fully faired recumbents? The final evolution of the two-wheeler is after all, called a motorcycle. How far is far enough?
The UCI’s mandate is for “the primacy of man over machine” is it not?

CA August 7, 2018 at 9:00 pm

Speaking for myself, I’m much more concerned about the financial health of the sport, so I think that encouraging companies to invest and innovate far outweighs the purist’s desire for simplified racing.

I agree, on a sporting level, it is much better for the riders to have equal bikes and race each other on a level playing field. Especially this is true at the amateur level – Senior 3’s for example, should be banned from spending more than $2k on a bike so that we’re sending up the best athletes, not the richest kids. But, at the top level, money is desperately needed to widen the talent pool and prevent teams from folding each year. Cycling has an extremely high turnover rate and more financial stability would prevent that. Therefore we need to encourage technology companies to invest and sponsor our teams.

paul wood August 7, 2018 at 10:42 pm

Having a spending limit for a bike seems a bit daft. Will that also include spare wheels? A cost limit on coaching? What about spending on nutrition?

The rich will always have an advantage, in sport and life. Might not like it but that’s life.

chava August 8, 2018 at 2:20 pm

Anyone know that bike companies are in no way fit to finance the whole circus alone, so we should care less about them and their “innovation”.
The real game changer in the global bike industry now are in e-bikes, anyways. Nothing to do with pro racing, ahem.

Anonymous August 10, 2018 at 9:08 am

The problem with your “not too little, not too much” argument is that what you’re effectively saying is “it was perfect back in the day when I first became a fan”. It’s a wrong headed nostalgia.

Dr Headgear August 7, 2018 at 8:22 pm

The argument for keeping tech gizmos of various types?
Money. Teams only exist through sponsorship, and tech gizmo companies – and bike manufacturers pushing their latest kit – are some of the sponsors. Team EF – Drapac Cannondale used to be Garmin, for instance. In an environment where teams keep folding for lack of sponsors I think banning some of the it that potential sponsors want to advertise would be a wrong move.

CA August 7, 2018 at 8:27 pm

Exactly, the romanticists tend to think that cycling is fueled on dreams and nice thoughts…

Larry T August 7, 2018 at 8:35 pm

Reasonable response – if you have the short-term commercial view. But the issue of getting rid of these gizmos is how to make the races more interesting and therefore have greater numbers of viewers rather than how to suck up to the bike industry sponsors. I’m sure you’re aware of Desgrang’ hatred of the bike industry and how they manipulated things, which is why I threw out the idea of national teams again, maybe every 4 years? The publicity caravan was created to replace the revenue of the bike biz once they were tossed aside. Of course they later brought trade teams back, but kept the publicity caravan as well. Finally, (I promise!) I really find it hard to believe a claim that a bike industry sponsor would bail out of the sport because of a ban on electronic gizmos – but why not try it and find out?

Mike e August 7, 2018 at 6:47 pm

With all the talk of eliminating this and that maybe should go back to the beginning. No helmets, no team cars, just bike and rider. Go back to steel bikes and everyone rides the same type of bike. No matter the technology it’s still the person and bike.

Bern August 7, 2018 at 9:16 pm

Sean Kelly would like a word with you…

PaulG August 7, 2018 at 6:51 pm

No need to ban powermeters…..On the Track/Velodrome they are allowed, but the rules state that the rider must not be able to see any display. Nor must it be visible to other riders. They will normally fit a Garmin/Etc under the saddle and it is used for data collection only. A very simple rule change if the ‘Powers that Be’ decide to go down the route they are talking about.

Dr Headgear August 7, 2018 at 8:15 pm

Ah yes, track. That well known hotbed of aggressive attacking on instinct… If a team pursuit can knock out near identical lap times every heat without power meters then I’d hazard a guess that the power meter is largely unnecessary to riding at a sustainable effort.

Jerome August 7, 2018 at 8:44 pm

As a trackie I was wondering when this would come out, we already have an example of racing without power meters and it looks pretty similar to racing with them.
You either have the watts in your legs or you don’t, a power meter isn’t going to change it.

Anonymous August 7, 2018 at 6:57 pm

“One additional factor behind the clamour to ban could be Chris Froome and his awkward style”.

Good grief, that’s pretty sad if true.

The Inner Ring August 7, 2018 at 7:28 pm

It appeared in the comments here during the Tour, the idea that he’s always looking at his power.

Dr Headgear August 7, 2018 at 8:17 pm

It comes up every year. It’s been debunked many, many times. There’s even a comedic meme that suggests he actually has a stem fixation… including other peoples.

Tim August 7, 2018 at 7:34 pm

Another anecdote from the other side – Egan Bernal noted in a recent interview that he didn’t look at his power meter when pacing up a hill. And this from the key Skybot in most of the mountain stages.

“It’s not a question of speed or watts. Sensations count for a lot,” Bernal said. “They speak about taking away the power meters. I looked at mine occasionally out of curiosity. No one ever told me to go at this power or be careful not to go above this limit.

https://www.velonews.com/2018/08/tour-de-france/skys-bernal-castroviejo-discuss-tour-drama_474037

Larry T August 7, 2018 at 8:38 pm

C’mon, the kid’s only been on SKY for less than a season. He’ll soon get the hang of things, if they don’t burn him out first.

Martijn August 7, 2018 at 9:25 pm

Wout Poels said in an interview that Sky does set the pace using power meters. Of course it could be a the difference between setting the pace lower on the mountain to discourage breakaways and keep them in check and later, when it comes down less to science and more to grinta.

Tom August 7, 2018 at 8:44 pm

Staring at your power meter has always been banned in track racing, so there is a precedent for this in the rule book.

DJW August 7, 2018 at 8:54 pm

I think that Prudomme’s real concern is that he would like his prime race (TdF) to be less predictable, but also that he would very much like a French winner – whether the race was boring or not. The comments on radios, budgets, team sizes, PMs, TUEs and Sky tactics are surely just an expression of French frustration at not getting that wish. As things stand changes to the above are unlikely to change markedly racing or the result, and conservative racing is likely to continue when for both teams and sponsors the race is so important. Finally when every Jacques, Louis and Jean-Paul can ride down to the café with PMs and all the rest on board it seems illogical to deprive the teams and riders who represent the pinnacle of that sport of that same technology.

Augie March August 8, 2018 at 4:58 am

Not so fast. A few years ago those high-tech swimsuits that were essentially flotation devices were banned in professional competition, so you can go and splash around in your local pool wrapped in high tech material that’s banned at the professional level. Likewise motor racing is at the cutting edge of automotive technology, but it’s not a free-f0r-all, they have all these restrictions on engines, gearboxes, tyres etc, and the various administrative bodies are continually tinkering with the formula. And to get back to cycling, one can see the REAL aero TT bikes in triathlon, the UCI actually mandate bikes be less aero to make them look more like bikes. Pro sport is not logical, because the aim is to make it competitive.

chava August 8, 2018 at 2:24 pm

Le Tour is not a tech exhibition. Most people who watch couldn’t care less about alle the bike technology stuff. Also we are a substantially amount of non-french people who are getting bored to death watching the Tour recently as well. I am however not saying this is (only) because of the reasons mentioned by Lappartient.

J Evans August 9, 2018 at 4:43 pm

Budget is the big thing.
That’s the primary cause of dull TdFs and the Sky train.
A lot of people here seem to think that is just fine, but that’s because this is an English-speaking site.
(Many intimate that it’s just the French being bitter, but how many other nationalities are bored by this? – Almost all of them.)

Would these people hold the same views if 6 of the last 7 Tours had been won by 3 different German riders, all riding for the same uber-wealthy German team?

Gunther August 9, 2018 at 10:38 pm

Excuse me, English is not my premier tongue, but are you saying that only team sky can pay for power meters. I think this is falsch. I would be most happy for a German winner but think also most unlikely.

CA August 9, 2018 at 8:38 pm

DJW – Thank you! I couldn’t believe no one else thought this. If Team Sky had a Frenchman named Christophe Fromage who was super skinny and awkwardly looked down at his top tube and won 4 Tours by limiting losses in mountains and solid ITTs, etc. I greatly suspect the French powers that be would not be proposing to ban power meters.

For me, this entire discussion is because no Frenchman has won Le Tour since Hinault.

Honestly, if they want a French winner, then develop your riders better.

Anonymous August 10, 2018 at 12:10 am

As you can see on this page, for many who have written here it’s not about nationality.

Mejia August 12, 2018 at 9:58 pm

Yep, I dont think the root problem here is consistently predictable/boring racing, but racing dominated by a single team, which as you allude to ASO bias in wanting a team closer to home to take the spoils (improve the family standing perhaps?). To illustrate the point re racing, do we have too much predictability in the classics? If I were Brailsford, in my performance review prep, id think job well done = ive performed within my sponsor budget and achieved my team and sponsor goals and commitments, often very well.

From this dominance issue, you can quickly then draw conclusions and why questions about the financial structures of racing – team budgets, governance rules and administration and find more of your real problems there. Ultimately the sport is only the revenues less costs = profits, but where do these go and why does this matter?

Is the problem in the lop sided and less mature business architecture of the sport and a single family owning close to 50% (im not sure of this inrng?), with monies not (more) evenly flowing back into cyclists etc?

As inrng puts it, Lappartient in his nuanced way has picked up on more analysis required, I wonder if he has any ideas, or firepower. There appears to be a bit of healthy shadowboxing on David v.s Christian on these matters, whilst Velon in the background ticks away without enough overt power or control.

Human Cyclist August 7, 2018 at 9:21 pm

Most amateurs can pace without a power meter. After a few years it becomes natural. Even if you couldn’t and PMs were removed next up would be heart rate.

Race radios is an interesting one. Geraint Thomas recently credit his DS for a lot of support, especially in staying calm in the race rather than chasing everything down. So I think radios do have an influence as the team management overrides a rider’s instinct. Sometimes.

As the article says, review the facts not the emotions. Is money the issue? The fact team sky have a team of GC contenders? Probably.

BenW August 9, 2018 at 12:38 pm

I’m a decidedly average amateur and I can pace fairly well. I think being a musician helps with maintaining cadence. I expect the pros are even better, and even if they make it so they can’t race with a power meter, it won’t be banned in training, so what’s the point?

MultiplexRant August 7, 2018 at 9:52 pm

It’s not power meters, or any other single factor, that make the dull Tours dull. I would probably start with the route though.

Guy August 7, 2018 at 10:30 pm

Nail on the head.

mendip5000 August 8, 2018 at 9:50 am

+1

I remember the Cycling Podcast reporting that Prudhomme’s dream tour would be all medium mountain stages. If love to see that given a trial.

David August 8, 2018 at 3:02 pm

The primary reason the Tour is, perhaps, less interesting than some other races (I don’t accept that it’s objectively dull) is its prestige. Riders are too scared to lose, and would rather ride to protect 7th on GC than take a big gamble on the chance off winning a stage or even the overall.

Not sure there’s much can be done about that – I can’t see ASO thinking it would be a good idea to, say, cease all promotion in an attempt to deliberately diminish their event. Increasing the reward differentials between a win and a placing, or between a stage win and a high GC position might help, but it would need to be pretty significant to overcome the weight of history and brand recognition.

Mark August 8, 2018 at 3:34 pm

I was going to make a comment, along these lines… Christian Prudhomme, is probably saying “ban power meters”, because he is saying, “look, we have designed this amazing tour / parcours, and the racing still is panning out how we like. We must find something to blame other than ourselves”.

Obviously the problem is much more complicated than any one issue in my opinion.

Banning power meters MAY make a significant enough difference, if it is done with 10 other things, but the problem, as INRNG says, is how do you determine that.

Crash Bandicoot August 7, 2018 at 9:57 pm

IIRC Michele Ferrari used to calculate power on climbs using VAM and weight and call into the US Postal car to say whether a rider should be chased down or not. I doubt the same calculations couldn’t be used today to advise riders who are already extremely adept at pacing themselves. It will work about as well as the silly idea to reduce rider count did in terms of neutralizing team Sky.

KevinR August 7, 2018 at 10:59 pm

I’m pretty unemotional about this. Not bothered if a rider uses a power meter or feel.

KevinR August 7, 2018 at 11:04 pm

I would, however, like to see what happens when the role of the DS is limited by removing race radio (& it could still be used when safety calls for it)

Dave August 14, 2018 at 1:03 pm

The way to do this is to make the radios rider-to-team only, as it is in cyclocross.

Riders would still be able to report a crash to the team car or request service, but would not be able to listen in for instructions.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a pleasant by-product of the move would be that getting rid of the earpieces led to a small decrease in those silly crashes which happen in the bunch.

Ben August 7, 2018 at 11:21 pm

Banning powermeters is a retrograde step and will not be accepted by the equipment sponsors that the sport depends upon the fund its teams. Powermeters are amongst the best ‘margin’ items in the bike parts industry.

The sport has been accused of being boring over and over and over, with doom-mongers prophesizing the end of the sport repeatedly since before the wars. Binda was promised big money to stay at home by the giro organisers, Merckx was thrown off the giro for a stimulant offence others when others were getting docked two minutes for the same offence, he was also later punched on a climb, Indurain was told he was too defensive, Anquetil was booed, Hinault too: all because they were too dominant, the racing too boring to the uninformed observer. Powermeters weren’t the cause then, and aren’t now.

It is the exceptions between eras when we get surprise winners, grand tour racing has however never been and will never be an unpredictable sport. The 3 weeks sorts the wheat from the chafe, and unless you can turn rockinghorses into thoroughbreds midrace, you will commonly see the winner coming from2 or even 3weeks out – that is why team sky’s science department has won it more grand tours than classics.

The teams are becoming more and more diligent and are turning up with more riders riding closer than ever to the pinnacle of performance, this should be applauded. It does however mean that the line between winning and losing is much more subtle, and that far fewer catastrophic mistakes are made by riders and teams. The racing is less ‘dramatic’ to the casual observer as a result. Those that describe the current racing as boring are the least likely to watch the stages in full or to read and appreciate the subtleties within the performances.

The race’s biggest problem is the recent lack of real homegrown contenders, the French public really needs a real home contender. As Chavanel and Alaphilippe are show (and as chavanel has said himself) it’s the Frenchmen that leave the creature comforts of French teams for foreign, performance-driven ones that get results. But French teams are so desperate they will pay a king’s ransome to hang onto the next French hope, a paradox.

If they want entertainment, not the pinnacle of cycle-sport in the best race in the world, tell ‘em to go watch l’isle de l’amour instead.

Wayne August 8, 2018 at 12:32 am

Do people really think that if this year’s tour’s first week of pan flat stages had a power meter ban they’d be any more interesting??? What makes the tour boring (imo) is the first week always being in the north of the country which is mostly flat and that everyone is so scared of sacrificing their 5th 6th 7th GC position to go on an attack, which, is understandable but makes for boring racing.

JP August 8, 2018 at 12:51 am

Totally agree with our host views on powermeters (and radios and the like). I much rather watch a sport where the main players are aware of all the race conditions and act on good information than hope that their imposed ignorance may help the show become more unpredictable and entertaining somehow. Yes, I accept that smarter, more attentive riders can deal with a “fog of war” reality better than others but at the same time dumb luck will also become a big factor in this scenario and I’m not sure that’s something to be promoted.. What I do like to see is true team tactics on display. This requires that teammates are in contact with each other (and with the DS and even helpers) to do leadouts / breakaway relays / help pull leader back in contention etc etc and, why not, that each one has the tools to gauge their efforts so that more complicated tactics may have a reasonable success rate.

Joe Saroni August 8, 2018 at 3:03 am

I love complaints like this. Reminds of my days as a kid in Bologna, reading/studying Bici Sport, cover to cover. Endless articles about “valori antici” and how the mythical greats would never do things that the weaker modern riders welcome as progress. Now banning PM’s will finally stop Froome and company. I don’t recall hearing cry’s for Renault-Gitane to give up those super cool Delta bikes when Hinault was wiping out everyone in the 4 ITT’s that were 60+ k’s apiece that were common in the early 80’s TdF.
Nobody complains that Quickstep has 50+ wins this year. Sky dominates mountain stages and the sport needs to change. If the French are ever able to return to the highest level of the sport and produce another Hinault type rider, I just hope the critics are just as loud.

Eskerrik Asko August 8, 2018 at 7:37 am

I, in turn, love astute observations like this. How o n earth can one turn this or any other complaint about the manner in which mountain stages are raced these days into a French complaint or a poorly disguised effort to stop a non-Frenchman from winning the Tour?

How did for instance those super cool Delta bikes change the manner in which ITTs were raced?

The perception that power meters have made the manner in which mountain stages are raced duller may be wrong but it certainly isn’t particularly French.

Joe Saroni August 12, 2018 at 4:47 pm

My point is that is all irrelevant banter. I don’t think anyone would disagree that if Sky for instance was French, and Froome was the next Hinault, ASO, and the I’Equipe would have no problem with the last 6-7 Tours. Guimard’s team dominated and his riders went on to win 7 of 10 tours in the 80’s with efforts by of La Vie Claire and Z. So yes, all of the talk of ASO modifications is directed towards breaking Sky’s grip on the event.
Cycling does not have a tech problem, a radio problem, it has a marketing problem from top down.

UHJ August 9, 2018 at 9:08 am

@Joe S, that is a great observation and I agree with you.
Any period of cycling had and will have this kind of domination in various forms. -And the allure of cycling is also to witness the “downfall” of the dominant force and a new come into place. The underdog winning is what we are waiting for.
I think the reason (or one of the reasons) nobody complains is that we with a GT have 21 days straight of cycling which is kind of an OD of racing and the trend of domination simply becomes more prevalent and immediate. For Quickstep, their classics and one-day races focus spreads out over a full season, many races only relayed in highlights or writing hence it is not as “in-your-face” as what happens during a GT.
Basically this is how it has always been and a quick fix is difficult to find. Not that new ideas should be discarded, though.

ninetubes August 8, 2018 at 3:57 am

dump the minimum bike weight and see if riders chose to race with the extra weight of a powermeter

BenW August 9, 2018 at 12:58 pm

The Stages powermeter used by Team Sky adds 20g to the weight of the crank arm. A Garmin 1000 is 114g.

An SRM setup is a little heavier – the PC8 head unit is 93g, the powermeter on the crank 180-210, depending on the fitment.

Nick August 8, 2018 at 6:12 am

Were radios and power meters banned in the Giro and Classics this year? Cos I remember some of that racing being quite good.

maximflyer August 8, 2018 at 12:18 pm

exactly

Crash Bandicoot August 8, 2018 at 9:37 pm

Always is. People have been crying since the second bicycle was made that bicycle racing has gotten stale, boring, processional etc. yet year after year you have super exciting races and stages unlike other sports you have to actually think about the team tactics at play etc. rather than “wham bam slam dunk!”.

Whale Oil Beef Hooked August 8, 2018 at 8:01 am

Having knowledge of power output is different to producing the necessary output to win races. Sponsors want a return on their investment, if science increases the returns teams will use it. Nothing new here the genie escaped from the lamp years ago.

I can’t see how Froome’s Giro attack would have happened without radios and power data.

DJW August 8, 2018 at 9:10 am

The unwritten essence of Prudhomme’s compliant is that he sees budgets, team numbers and technology as a hindrance to his desire to have a home winner. As a long-term French resident and francophile I would enjoy that too though the likely candidate is hard to identify. As for boring racing, if the French could find a new Indurain 80km ITTs would surely be back in the mix, and the missing roadside crowds too.

paul August 8, 2018 at 10:05 am

Whenever i see these knee jerk reactions i find this Gandpa Simpson quote comes to mind

“You know, you remind me of a poem I can’t remember, and a song that may never”

Are we trying to get back to a perfect place that never existed?

ocaz August 8, 2018 at 10:14 am

+1

RQS August 8, 2018 at 10:08 am

I think that cycling should ban rose tinted spectacles. To listen to Larry T you’d think that cycling was somehow more interesting and dynamic in some bygone era, but yet equally tedious in Indurain’s era. We all remember those amazing and unexpected stages which blew our minds, and exploded the realm of possibilities like Roach climbing out of the mist, Lemond’s time trial, the road to Superbagniere, stage 19 of the Giro, Formigal etc. But these are the exceptions.

I often wonder if the events from the Pantani/Armstrong era created expectations on cycling which cannot be matched in a world a little closer to normale.

The biggest factor which appears to produce the sort of hegemony which cycling fans (or possibly detractors) seem to disagree with appears to be Team finances. I wouldn’t have a problem with balancing the playing field, though I suspect there’s not much ASO can do about it, and not much the UCI want to do about it.

Larry T August 8, 2018 at 6:29 pm

Your quote “To listen to Larry T you’d think that cycling was somehow more interesting and dynamic in some bygone era, ” makes me guess you’ve never heard the term “golden age of cycling”?
Hint – it happened long before BigMig. Look it up.

mendip5000 August 8, 2018 at 7:55 pm

How did the viewing figures pan out?

Larry T August 8, 2018 at 9:46 pm

I think it was radio back then but TV broadcasts eventually came along… and a whole lot of consumer product companies sponsored teams. You may have heard of Nivea skin cream, Salvarani, Del Tongo and SCIC kitchen components, Ignis refrigerators, Molteni sausages, Ford and Peugeot automobiles and on and on?
With the daily newspaper sales, massive crowds at the roadside, live radio broadcasts and eventually live TV coverage plus the stars of cycling featured on general interest broadcasts, most consider this the “golden age of cycling”. It’s not simply nostalgia, sorry.
Viewers, listeners, fans by the roadside all are potential consumers and even if you subscribe only to the commercial value of sport, I would think you’d want to tinker with the rules of sport to increase those numbers rather than watch them continue to decrease?

Ben August 8, 2018 at 10:46 pm

Back when the national hero for the race would be pushed up the climb and get to slipstream cars in the tt, not to mention 3/4 of the peloton off their heads on amphetamines…

But it seemed amazing in the hyperbole of the journalist, who could ignore the flaws in what they saw and indulge their poetic license when telling the story …. so the golden era indeed.

ocaz August 8, 2018 at 10:19 am

It is a tool nothing more, as others have said these are elite athletes they don’t need a number on the screen to tell them what they’re capable of at any given time, they will know this.

Cecilie August 8, 2018 at 10:21 am

All these comments about Prudhomme’s concerns being motivated by his desire for a French winner: How do you explain the TTT? I know that sporting considerations only account for so much in route design, but not having a TTT would be the first point on my list to increase Bardet’s chances and I don’t see financial or political considerations getting in the way of that.

Augie March August 8, 2018 at 10:41 am

I’m sure you mean ITT. Teams can bring on specialists or burly classics riders to help protect their leader’s relative GC position in the team time trial, Movistar have done well nursing dead weights like Quintana in the TTT just like Andy Schleck’s teams used to. It’s the individual time trial that is the race of truth and where Bardet is found wanting.

Cecilie August 8, 2018 at 11:00 am

No, I mean the TTT. Whereas cutting the ITT altogether would make life easier for Bardet et al, it seems a bit unrealistic considering tradition. Tours without TTTs are normal and, if it was true that Prudhomme and friends talked and acted upon a desire for a French winner, I would not have expected a TTT on the route the year after Bardet placed third.

SLO_cyclist August 8, 2018 at 12:54 pm

If there is talk about banning something, why not instead banning all measuring devices alltogether? No speed and distance measurement device, no power meter, no HRM, nothing! Than let’s see how they’ll race. Otherwise….power meters are here for the last decade or so. Before that they weren’t. But I can imagine it’s hard to compare nowadays with prior periods, because until 10 years ago, there was also doping, which now apparently is not anymore. I am not pro banning any of these devices, however banning only power meters seems to be either attention seeker (people need to be reminded Vuelta is around the corner, no need to wait for a bike race for another 10,5 months to start) or a cosmetical correction. Ban everything or nothing! Why do the riders need to know about their speed and distance covered after all?

RQS August 8, 2018 at 2:13 pm

Would you then take away the 1k to go banner and any other road marker, as well as the time split motorbike?

Chances are it would just make riders more conservative unless they knew the roads, and defeat the basis for the change. It might yield a few surprises, but it wouldn’t change the underlying tactics used.

Money seems to be the main factor is the Sky train and that’s really where they ought to focus if they don’t like it. But cycling is not a rich sport so I doubt they will.

SLO_cyclist August 8, 2018 at 3:28 pm

Yes, if we need to ban something, I would take all these away as well. As well as radio connection to team cars and split time announcements from the motorbikes.

Marsman August 8, 2018 at 4:19 pm

Don’t forget to ban the roadbook as well. No need to know wether the route is flat or mountainous or how many km’s there are to be raced! You’ll see it when you get there. 😉

Rod August 10, 2018 at 7:07 am

While you’re at that, make the day’s route random 🙂

Roll a couple of dice. First one gets the number of rated climbs in the general vicinity. Second one a range of possible route distances. No one knows until the depart reel flag is dropped.

LOL.

Anonymous August 8, 2018 at 2:15 pm

“when I look down I’m able to breathe a lot easier”

Thought this is what the TUEs are for…

Mark August 8, 2018 at 3:35 pm

Classic!

Jeff August 8, 2018 at 3:13 pm

I’d like to see race radios banned for the following reason: it gives riders an omniscient view of the race. They know where everyone is at all times, how far back/ahead they are, if they are suffering or closing, etc.

It has created the phenomenon of the modern breakaway, where a handful of riders go up the road, are kept on a tight leash (because the peloton/leaders know exactly how far away they are), then reeled in with a few km’s until the finish.

I’d like to see racing where it is actually dangerous to let someone go up the road and out of sight because you don’t know how much time they might take.

Mark August 8, 2018 at 3:35 pm

Time to race masters!!!

RQS August 8, 2018 at 7:25 pm

So you want to destroy breakaways?!

I think you’re losing sight of the corollaries. Certain riders are allowed to escape because they don’t worry GCs. But in the early part of races it’s the only way smaller teams get exposure. If they get lucky a snarl up behind them means they snatch a famous win, but if teams can’t calculate the team they’re going to lose then no breakaway and no suspense.

The tactics will change to suit the rules, but the outcome will largely be the same. Sprint teams just won’t let the break have any length of rope.

Dave August 14, 2018 at 1:09 pm

After a week of that, the sprinters teams would be cooked from chasing every single move.

Looming mountains might have riders on a couple of GC teams thinking about a later stage rather than being fully attentive to the day’s racing.

Teams with riders who lost time on stage 2 plot a raid on stage 8 to either split the race open or die trying.

All this sets up a recipe for mayhem. Bring it on!

Cecilie August 8, 2018 at 3:56 pm

I agree with those saying that allowing power meters (and radios) needs as much explanation as banning them. Maybe the dominant arguments to ban them are not as strong as people generally seem to think, but they at least seem stronger than the arguments to allow them. Are they a big deal in terms of racing quality? I don’t know. Is it too costly to test out a ban and find out? Of course not. Power meters will still be out there as training tools for pros and amateurs alike and the industry will find different ways to advertise them.

Ferdi August 13, 2018 at 10:55 am

+1000. That is exactly the point that power-metre defenders should try to answer if they can. (Actually they are not defending anything, they are just opposing the opponents of power-metres).

Davo August 8, 2018 at 5:39 pm

Personally I would be happy to see an extended trial, with and without, PMs, and likewise with radios. Sum of the parts is probably not much changes. You can’t unlearn what you’ve learnt whilst training. Also, the big teams will just buy up those riders with better ‘feel’ and tell them to ride tempo on the front. Not much changes.
On the other hand, banning earpieces will increase the possibility of a breakaway rider coming in second and raising his arms in triumphant celebration. Always makes me laugh!
In my mind it’s the parcours that makes the race, Prud’homme should concentrate on getting that right.
And for those of you who think the first week in Northern France makes a boring race, 2020 kicks off in the south……..which is Nice. (Courtesy of the fast show).

Anonymous August 8, 2018 at 6:23 pm

I just want to see something banned, not really bothered what or who.

David August 10, 2018 at 5:00 pm

Down with this sort of thing!

Cranky August 8, 2018 at 6:41 pm

I am not sure what problem the race organizers are trying to solve. Are races more boring today decades ago? This just seems like the nostalgic musings of old guys. Everything was better in the “old days” before this and that.

Technology should be embraced and disseminated during the race. If a rider is going to use one then the readings should be available to the press and the announcers be able to analyze, report, and disseminate to the public. I would rather see racing go in this direction. Cycling could break some new ground as compared to other sports and how “close” we get to the riders. Knowing power, heart rate, etc could make the races more interesting.

Let’s not stick our heads in the sand and try to go backwards. Embrace the new and make it available. If a team feels that this data is so sensitive that they don’t want it public then make the decision to go sans the powermeter and heart rate monitor and radio. Otherwise, all the info is fair game for the press and spectators. I think it would be a lot of fun.

Jeff August 8, 2018 at 7:31 pm

Interesting comment. I like your idea about making data publicly available so we can see rider stats in real time while racing.

I disagree, however, that the calls to ban power meters or radios are based in nostalgia or “going backwards.” I think the debate centers around whether these technologies are adding to the race or subtracting from it. Not all technology is “progress.” My thoughts are that power meters might be detracting from the race and that I think radios are certainly detracting from the race. In what other sport does Kruijsijk or Quintana (top 10 riders in GC) get allowed to go up the road simply because the yellow jersey will know exactly how far away they are and exactly what effort is needed to either reel them in or keep them on a short leash?

RQS August 8, 2018 at 10:46 pm

In what other sport is aggregate timing a factor? It’s one of the beauts of the sport.

It’s a bit like white men cant jump:

Sometimes when you lose you win,
Sometimes when you win you lose; and
Sometimes you just win.

What other sport (which requires human effort) does slipstreaming have such a massive effect? I don’t think you can start this as a conversation comparing apples to pears.

Anonymous August 8, 2018 at 10:17 pm

The idea, that technology per se is „progress“ and that progress per se is good is one we are taught to believe, because it suits us, because without that we couldn‘t sustain the population. Many jobs (and many inventions) are not born out of necessity or because they help us to be better or live better, but just to make money. So the goal is not progress and not being benevolent, it is to create a demand to make a living from it. Who needs disneyland, fast food, cinemas or ipads (on which I am writing right now, so of course I am part of this), who really NEEDS tv or cars? Do we need ti be able to fly somewhere on holidays every single year?? And do the negative sides not long outweigh any benefit of this „progress“ and are we not happy to close the eyes to this, because we will be dead when it gets too hot (literally)? Two weeks ago we had a power outage. It was the second I experienced all my life, so it is really rare. It was in the middle of the night, everything around us was dark and as I sat there, seeing the battery of my phone climb down, I thought: I am surrounded by a ton of things I think essential and necessary to live – but in reality not one of these things can help me to survive or even to live.

To translate the above into cycling: Powermeter and radios are not there to better the sport. They were not implemented from a neutral party. They are the product of an industry and a product of our own shortcomings as a society, because we automatically think everything, that is able to earn money has the right above all other things. Just look around the world, where this has brought us to!

And those, who ask the question „why ban them?“ Should first answer the question „why allow them?“ And then „if we allow them, in which way do we allow them?“ (Then in a reasonable world there should be a study, to see, what happens, if we take these things away, what happens, if we allow radio only for safety communications, what happens, when we let everybody use them as they like and then after two or three seasons, one can make a decision).

But as usual this blog falls short of looking open minded at things, instead it has an idea and sets out to discredit anything opposite to that idea. That is not, I don‘t know the right english word for it, in german I‘d say it isn‘t „redlich“.

Anonymous August 8, 2018 at 10:30 pm

And just to add: If radios and powermeters make „no difference“ in the races, then the only reason to have them just got eliminated. Why have them, if they do nothing? Why invest money and risk injuries through the radioparts on the back of the riders when it is all for nothing?

Ben August 8, 2018 at 10:56 pm

If they were banned the riders would just want their garmins (or other equivalent device) to show their hr, speed, VAM, and local wind speed and direction – all readily available. Within weeks, the displayed data would give the same feedback to the rider as a power meter does now.

Riders already ride with a gpx track showing the next few corners, next 5ks gradient, and any pins logged for team feeds (unofficial or official), spare wheels, crosswinds, exposed roads, hairpins on descents or what ever info is needed for the stage.

Anonymous August 9, 2018 at 12:49 am

I don‘t think my point was understood. Aside from everything: Just because something exists doesn‘t mean it has to be used. It is exactly this thinking, that is costing us dearly on a human, social level. At a very basic level we have to finally get off our asses, start to take responsibilities and stop accepting anything. Because if we don‘t it won’t be long before our actions will have consequences we can‘t undo anymore. The world has become a tinderbox in many different ways and it isn‘t anymore like 70 or 100 years ago. Today through „progress“ we now have come to the point, where all our actions are so magnified through the things we invented, that they really can have devastating results for our whole race.

Taking responsibility means in the case of cycling asking us: what do we want from cycling, which meaning shall it have, who should be in power, do we want the industry to push cycling, do we want cyclists to earn millions, do we want teams to cost millions, do we want races to pollute the environment and so forth? I think we all watch cycling to see races and I think cyclists ride to race them. So what has a radio or a powermeter to do with that? Nothing. It isn‘t needed to race. And if the industry wants cyclists to push their products, they can do that outside of the racing.

BenW August 9, 2018 at 1:54 pm

“But as usual this blog falls short of looking open minded at things, instead it has an idea and sets out to discredit anything opposite to that idea. That is not, I don‘t know the right english word for it, in german I‘d say it isn‘t „redlich“.”

Google says “redlich” means “honest”, which I think is pretty harsh.

Powermeters feel like a Macguffin for this article. Ever seen Pulp Fiction? The black briefcase is a Macguffin. To quote wikipedia, a Macguffin is “a plot device in the form of some goal, desired object, or another motivator that the protagonist pursues […] The MacGuffin’s importance to the plot is not the object itself, but rather its effect on the characters and their motivations.”

I say this because the real thrust of INRNG’s argument is contained at the top (“But there’s a risk with the logical fallacy that “something must be done, here’s something, we must do it”.”) and at the bottom, within the conclusion – “A real concern is how some want to act first without testing. The only way to settle it is to have some trials, in particular races or for some stages in a race but don’t be surprised if the simple solution doesn’t change that much.”

INRNG seems largely ambivalent to Powermeters, saying they don’t really tell Pros anything they can’t discern through “feel”.

So, the real issue INRNG notes is the potential for ruling parties to implement ideas without proper consideration or testing or consultation, purely because “something must be done”. “Kneejerk” isn’t always the best form of reaction. The Powermeter thing is just a means to frame the argument.

Anonymous August 9, 2018 at 7:29 pm

I didn‘t use honest or dishonest, because it not properly fits „redlich“. „Redlich“ is a bit more nuanced, it contains the idea of an ethical, intellectual morality, which can be absent, although someone is „honest“ on some level. But „redlich“ goes definitely in this direction. A „redlich“ look at the question would have for me to start from a neutral point of view and question everything, not only that, with which someone is comfortable. Because if you look at things only this way, while pretending it is neutral, it simply is not „redlich“.

Instead the piece sets out from the start to paint those as some kind of mildly hysterical, driven by emotion not reason, who demand, that we look at things, when obviously these things go wrong (Because they do go wrong and contrary to what some like to think (as usual, this way of thinking says more about the ones thinking this way than about anybody else), it aren‘t only the french who are sick and tired of team sky, the inequality in cycling and the way many stage races have become a race of the last kilometer, all others see it the same way). So obviously the starting point of this piece in truth wasn‘t a question: Ban powermeter?, but an opinion, an emotion, which then needed to be „proven“. The same goes for the „something must be done“ angle: All the time something gets done without real consideration, if not, we wouldn‘t have radios, powermeters, tons of cars following the race, a few riders wearing „intelligent“ clothes, while others can‘t even afford a proper wind tunnel test and so forth. But this gets taken as „that‘s just how it is“, the status quo doesn‘t even get questioned in any way. But if you judge those, that question the status quo, you also have first to question, if the status quo is desired, good, right, helpful in the first place.

I hope, I could make myself understood.

Anonymous August 9, 2018 at 8:02 pm

Sorry, I wrote „all others see it the same way“. Of course that is a generalisation and therefore wrong, there propably are non english people, who are ok with the way it is. What I wanted to write is, that it aren‘t only the french, who are fed up. For most people the discussion is about the love they feel for cycling, not nationality and if you look into the international papers, social media etc., than you know, that people from all nationalities want things to change, not only french.

J Evans August 9, 2018 at 4:36 pm

Very good points. For me, this blog does err on the side of conservativism, but it’s more the bulk of commenters who are so seemingly resistant to any questioning of the state of the sport: howls of derision greet ideas of drug-testing outwith WADA, budget caps and other things that are not how the authorities currently run things. Even in something as relatively meaningless as bike racing, people’s obedience is so deeply entrenched that they dare not question the status quo.

GTA August 9, 2018 at 12:29 am

One aspect of road racing that would be affected by banning powermeters is the effort of sprinters and other back-of-packers to make the time limit in mountainous races. If ever a powermeter is useful, I would imagine it’s when you’re on your own against a time limit (very similar to a time trial).

KevinK August 9, 2018 at 11:16 am

Interesting thought. This of course brings up the law of unintended consequences – make an ill-considered move to fix something (more exciting, seat-of-the-pants racing!) and instead of making a positive effect, you actually make some other aspect of racing worse (sprint stages without sprinters).

Peter August 9, 2018 at 3:10 am

I’ve often said we should get rid or speedometers, rpm and gas gauges in F1 – make it more interesting!

Ecky Thump August 9, 2018 at 5:38 am

It’s difficult not to meaningfully contest any of Inner Ring’s points here.

Power meters could be banned in races but one would assume that they would still be able to be used for training purposes.
Consider that Hayman trained on the rollers prior to his Paris Roubaix win; we can assume that he would have done timed efforts to a defined power output to help get fit. That would be logical.
Any athlete would do repeat high-intensity measured efforts that essentially are the same thing – running six 55″ 400 x m sprints with minimal rest in between is the same as a set of repeat hill climbs or a tempo ride to a defined power output.
They’re designed to mimic race conditions and increase athletes’ power and stamina . The body becomes accustomed to the effort and, more importantly, so does the mind and confidence of the athlete.

What Team Sky are doing is riding at a high tempo – the equivalent of the habitual trio of Kenyans running a 10,000 x m track race from the front.
It’s a legitimate tactic and it’s up to the other competitors to counter / match that.
But banning power meters in a race isn’t going to stop athletes riding or running quickly, imho.

BenW August 9, 2018 at 1:57 pm

I’ve often wondered, is there anything that stops you sitting on the back of Sky’s mountain train if you’re an otherwise “isolated” rider?

Ben August 9, 2018 at 6:17 pm

Unless you are stronger than the strongest sky rider, you can’t follow because you aren’t strong enough. Sky only do it when they think they have the strongest rider, and their strongest rider is best with a high tempo. Froome likes the climbs ridden hard all the way as that suits his physiology, and when he feels good he’ll have the team gunning it (‘Squeeze!’) on the early slopes to hurt his opponents.

Ecky Thump August 12, 2018 at 9:53 pm

I’just realised that my opening line was meant to read “difficult to meaningfully contest”, as in I’m in agreement *sorry*

Micky D August 9, 2018 at 7:51 am

I have been racing and training with PM’s for years and my experience is they are of little use in a road race due to nature of racing. If a small group goes up the road you need to follow (if you can) regardless of what your PM says. Using them in races is primarily for data collection to analyse afterward.

They are more useful in TT’s where you understand from training the type of effort sustainable over a given time. But even here it depends on the course. If it is flatish they are useful. If it is undulating less so.

The primary benefit of PM’s is for training where you can better proportion efforts over multiple intervals to maximise the training benefit.

I question whether many of the people calling for a ban have used PM’s in a serious way.

UHJ August 9, 2018 at 9:20 am

Exactly; for training and for analysing afterwards to improve the training and become a better racer. Train hard, race easy… The PM really is of little use during a non-TT-race.

Dave August 10, 2018 at 10:10 am

Agreed. When you’re right in the thick of it you don’t have time to look down at your powermeter. I do spend a lot of time staring at it in TTs and if I am setting the pace on the front of a group on a straight bit of road perhaps

Richard S August 9, 2018 at 9:00 am

At the end of the day power meters are a training tool, and that is what they should be used for. I agree with those saying they might not take away from the racing but they definitely don’t add, so a ban shouldnt be be a problem. If they don’t allow the riders to regulate their effort and pace themselves why would they use them? Heart rate is floored, you’d imagine especially so with the fatigue at the end of a tour, and so is speed which obviously can be effected by the weather/road conditions. That’s why we’re told to use them to train and that’s why they’ll be using them in a race. Ban them, and like training before power meters, it becomes guesswork.

Watts August 9, 2018 at 9:05 am

Someone said ‘doping is not the problem anymore, money is’.

I’d say the problem is the difference in budgets. It is ridiculous that the two or three teams who are Sky’s biggest threats on paper, do not even have half their budget probably more like third of it.

You can’t make a salary cap and you can’t expect banning radios or powermeters to make a difference.

I believe the situation will solve itself. Sky will not keep putting this vast amount into the project when increasingly the publicity they get is stories about urinethrowing, hostility from hooligans, jiffy bag news and so on.

At least we can hope.

Dani August 9, 2018 at 10:58 am

Hey, my beloved @inrng , if you think power meters are almost “useless” or “not used” by riders….they shouldn’t care if they are banned, right?
Let’s ban those things, they bring no positive things, neither for riders nor for spectators

Joseph Crompton August 9, 2018 at 12:42 pm

Velon is trying to get some interesting data from the power meters.

Richard S August 13, 2018 at 12:37 pm

Like what, the riders sex lives? Power meters record power and cadence, neither are interesting.

The Inner Ring August 9, 2018 at 12:53 pm

The point is not so much the ban, more that people want to ban things to change something without testing it first, and that the calls for the ban probably won’t deliver much. It’s like calling for a ban on socks hoping it would make racing better.

Anonymous August 9, 2018 at 2:32 pm

“…more that people want to ban things to change something without testing it first”
Uh, how would you test the banning of something without actually banning it? I thought it was a theory (totally unproven as of now) that power-meters made racing less exciting because the racers know exactly what their output is and have been told how long they can sustain that output, so they ride according to the data on the screen.
How are you going to find out if that’s the case unless you take the gizmos away and make them wonder how long they can hold the not-exactly-known pace/output…and suffer the consequences for getting it wrong? If you take the teams/riders word that “the power-meter makes no difference” then let’s let them prove it by taking them away for a season or two. Are the proponents of these gizmos stock-holders in the companies who make them with fears if the pros can’t use ’em in races they’ll go the way of Spinaci bars?

Larry T August 9, 2018 at 2:33 pm

Sorry, that was Larry T above – not that many of you had any doubts 🙂

Ferdi August 13, 2018 at 11:10 am

Again the silly comparisons… Like one very silly pro rider tweeted back to me a few years ago… “so let’s get tubulars across our shoulders too, no?”. Instead of providing reasons for allowing stuff, your approach seems to be to allow as a rule, and then require testing only for banning and not for allowing. Where’s the logic?

Larry T August 9, 2018 at 12:31 pm

The hysteria about the thought of banning power meters reminds me of the old Spinaci handlebar daze. Anyone else remember those? I was told over and over these were the greatest invention ever and how I was a fool not to have set clamped onto my handlebars. My reply was the things seemed a rather expensive rack to hold your helmet when it wasn’t on your head.
But a funny thing happened – once they were banned from the pro races, despite all their wonderfullness, they vanished overnight from the handlebars of the same proponents who called me a fool for not using them. I was amazed at how quickly they vanished, though there was a brief campaign (paid for by Cinelli I think?) to legalize them. Somehow, all of the wonderful advantages and greatness of this product vanished into thin air once the pros could no longer use them in races. Perhaps the fear of a power-meter ban is the same thing?

Jimmy August 9, 2018 at 1:25 pm

Maybe they just need to quit televising the entire race. 6+ hours in front of the TV waiting for 30 minutes of racing. Go back to 2 hours of coverage with highlights and the last hour or so of live action.

Larry T August 9, 2018 at 6:06 pm

What is stopping anyone now from tuning in as you say, for the last 2 hours? Based on my TV viewing you certainly get all the highlights in that time along with that last hour of live action.
But it’s said the TV viewing figures are down, way down (maybe the reports are inaccurate?) and we know there are not dozens of sponsors clamoring to have their name printed on the jerseys. Hard to understand how less TV would improve things.

Joseph Crompton August 9, 2018 at 12:39 pm

Can we ban the uci. Might fix some problems

cyclinggg August 9, 2018 at 1:09 pm

Every GC guy trains about the same way. No PM wont make much difference. No radios on riders would make a bigger difference. Lack of information would change things in the last 3-50km of a race depending on course.

John LeG August 9, 2018 at 3:33 pm

I don’t think radios or power meters or any technology make any appreciable difference – all players will equip themselves with the best permitted gear, so it cancels out. It’s more interesting to look at the current optimal strategy for winning and how it can be modified by rule or reward changes that increase “entertainment value” (whatever that’s perceived to be!).

For example, given the length of the race, winners will tend to win by the minimum safe margin, say 2 minutes, which they adjust their output to maintain. That might be e.g. by not losing time until the ITT (Froome Giro), or similarly until the mountains, whatever. So you want GC guys to try harder? Give a stage win time bonus as big as the current typical Tour winning margin, and see what happens.

This is pretty simplistic, but applying some game theory to this situation would at least require some analysis of actual behaviour, and thereby choices about what “entertaining” meant, and how to achieve it.

J Evans August 9, 2018 at 4:26 pm

Try banning them – there’s nothing to lose.
If racing improves, keep the ban.
As for the ‘progress’ argument some put forward, the posts by:
Anonymous August 8, 2018 at 10:17 pm
(and those which (s)he follows with) sum up my feelings pretty well.
People have been duped into believing that ‘progress’ means ‘something better’ – in our world, it more usually means ‘something that will make someone some money’.

Anonymous August 9, 2018 at 8:25 pm

OT: I (she btw) talked about that on monday with a taxidriver (funnily, outside of my friends, I have the greatest discussions with taxidrivers. Maybe because they have a vast knowledge about humanity (because people don‘t need to pretend in a taxi) and because many very, very educated, thoughtful people are forced to drive taxis these days, when they come as refugees to other countries. And some, who drive a taxi seem to do it, because of the independence it gives them, so it seems to attract independent minds). And one conclusion we came to at the end of our drive was, that for most of our time as a race, to question our existence, to strive to become a better being was a huge part of us humans and that this today has been totally lost, along with the great philosophers we had, that often helped to changed the world in the past. They are gone. Today we don‘t question anything anymore. We are too much distracted for that.

We mostly don’t want to become better anymore, we just want to live easier, have „a better life“. And this missing moral, psychological education, searching, this missing drive and doubt can only lead to a downfall. And we both (taxidriver and I) thought, that this change in direction is probably mostly due to a reaction to the times of fascism. After the second ww to „be better“ was forever tainted with fascism and „to be better than“ and became a taboo. So the next best thing to work towards was „a better life“. This also fitted capitalism and the need of those, who lost all in war, to bring as much between themselves and beeing poor as they could.

This all ties together with the „progres is good“ thing. The less we know and question, the easier we can be streamlined. Sometimes it feels like we all are sleepwalking. I often think the people in 1930 must have felt this way, too. And on the other side this philosophical, moral, ethical vacuum lends itself perfectly to extremism. Because people are so used and so tired of feeling not much, that they are easy prey for the first thing, that makes them feel anything real, makes them feel needed and connected, which sadly often is hate and animosity.

Honestly sorry for the OT!!! But as most people don‘t read anon postings, I hope this doesn‘t bother too much people.

Davo August 9, 2018 at 10:42 pm

I hope you tipped him.

Davo August 9, 2018 at 10:45 pm

Or her, more likely.

Anonymous August 9, 2018 at 11:54 pm

„More likely“… cute!

It was a him and we sat for some time in the car after we arrived and after I already had paid and continued our conversation, so the time spent talking probably cost him more than the tip had earned him. When we parted, we had not only both had a very nice, interesting start in the day, but I had also seen pictures of his wife and children and was very late for my meeting. But there are more important things.

Anonymous August 9, 2018 at 6:18 pm

There is such a bewilderingly large array of things in cycling that could be banned (or differently controlled) that it’s probably better to not get too obsessed with these things. There will always be something that someone wants tweaked. With things as they are the strongest rider tends to win, and that’s good enough for me.

Damon August 9, 2018 at 9:06 pm

I don’t agree that power meters make racing boring, as well as restricting riders to a certain threshold, they also have the capacity to do the opposite – “wow, threshold feels easy today..let’s do something special”. Whilst it’s not the answer to the whole question, look at Frome’s stage 19 at the Giro, Sagan at Roubaix, Benoot at Strada Bianche – they probably all exceeded/utilised threshold limits and produced amazingly exciting efforts.

CK August 11, 2018 at 3:54 am

The debate over technology (power meters, race radios) is tangential to the problem and desired end: boring races and more exciting races, respectively. I would argue (as some others above have) that the problem is rooted in the format of the race. Stage races, the TdF especially, with shorter stages over more varied parcour. Stage 9 this year was, IMO, compelling viewing; something was always happening & it was a hard stage for teams to control. But go farther: make the objective winning/placing well on stages — not having the shortest time. In other words, the winner is the one with the most stage wins (and perhaps podiums), with time being merely a tie-breaker. This would force teams and riders to work to maximize gains (denominated in stage wins) rather than to minimize (time losses). Such a change would make Sky’s strategy of riding on the front and strangling the race redundant because they would secure no reward from consistently placing highly without winning. One day races provide a proof of concept: sure the first 100 km might be prossesional, but then the next 100 km tend to be exciting…. and when such races are shortened, the processional preface is what’s ditched by the riders.

KevinK August 11, 2018 at 4:04 pm

“…the winner is the one with the most stage wins (and perhaps podiums), with time being merely a tie-breaker.”

I like this! Peter Sagan would have easily won this year, and probably have a couple more overall wins, too. As I recall, there was a time when the winner of the TdF was determined by points, not overall time, which is similar to what you’re proposing. But I don’t think there’s any chance we’ll go back to that format. If they did, I would expect that they’d eliminate more sprint stages, and try to build something that could be won by someone like Alaphilippe (which wouldn’t necessarily be so bad – his style of racing is very exciting).

I agree with you – the real issue is (or I think should be) what kind of racing do we want? And I agree with Inrng – people propose knee-jerk solutions, without clearly articulating what their pet issue really is (which for some seems not to be about “more exciting racing” ), nor how their solution will achieve their desired (but sometimes murky) goal.

Cranky August 12, 2018 at 2:05 am

Apparently cycling engenders a Luddite mentality is my takeaway perusing the responses. If people think that eliminating technology is going to bring back the good ole days, I predict they are very wrong. Technology is what excites the younger generation which is the fan base we need to be attracting. The Boomers are dying off. I see less and less interest in cycling by 20 somethings. How do I know? My two children are in the is demographic and I am around them and their friends who, btw, are all athletically inclined have run, played football at Div 1 level or played other club sports i.e. baseball, triathlons, etc.

Personally, I believe the restrictions on bicycle technology are hurting the sport and going backwards on powermeters, radios, and the rest is just another arrow in cycling’s heart. It also eliminates potential sponsors. Innovation makes the sport exciting not less so. Like I mentioned in a prevous comment, all these technologies should be public: a teams race radio should be open to the sports coverage. Power meter data should be available during the race along with all the data being gathered like heart rate, cadence, etc. If a team doesn’t want that info public then they can chose to go without the technology – that would be fun to see the various team strategies employed.

What’s next? Go back to the pre-Boardman days and get rid of any aero design advantage in bike design? Stop being Luddites! And, have a nice day.

Larry T August 12, 2018 at 6:31 pm

Your Luddite analogy is old, unoriginal and kind of confused with the details of your children and their friends who run, play football, etc. unless I’m missing something. None of these activities are high-tech and innovative, so are you claiming they became bored and stopped doing them because they didn’t include enough technology?
Why doesn’t the UCI allow the full technological evolution of the bicycle? You know, a MOTORcycle? Or perhaps a fully-faired recumbent? Would millions tune-in to watch people racing those?
Can you explain how innovation makes sport more exciting? Major League Baseball still uses a bat made from wood when there are far more innovative substitutes. Would there be more fans in stadiums and in front of TV’s if the bats were carbon fiber?
Many confuse the addition of technology with improvement/progress no matter what the actual result might be…it’s kind of a reverse Luddite mentality, no?

James Powers August 12, 2018 at 9:15 pm

The problem I have with this and the other suggestions that Lappartient came up with is that he doesnt seem to have talked to the riders or the teams in coming up with them. Banning Race radios is unsafe and didnt work before, banning power meters assumes the riders are incapable of assessing their efforts without it despite spending countless hours training in these zones, the salary cap has been plucked from thin air, a stick rather than a carrot punishing sponsors rather than encouraging money into the sport.

I’m afraid I’m taking a dim view of the UCI president who is failing to have any positive effect so far and instead is just creating noise.

BC August 13, 2018 at 8:14 am

James. I agree with several of your points but not those on the UCI president or safety.

I think you are being more than generous in suggesting that Lappartient is ‘just creating noise’. He is causing great damage and discontentment to riders, teams and the public by continually opening his mouth and expressing views that are no more than a personal opinion. He needs to learn to say less, consult more and report the actualities.

If safety is really the issue Race Radio’s can be placed in the hands of the organizer where their use is confined to race information only. I would argue that their present contribution to safety is dubious at best. DSs, who’s main interest is race control and results, telling riders to move to the front because of narrowing roads, crosswinds, street furniture etc simply produces its own safety issues. In my view there is no requirement for radio controlled riders. Tactics and instinct should form part of their intrinsic racing craft.

James Powers August 15, 2018 at 12:26 am

I think we agree on your first part about creating damage.

The second part about race radios less so. Theres a great interview by Phillipa York & Allan Peiper on the CN website that highlights a lot of issues with the current peloton from the cyclists being underweight and prone to injuries to what is being said on the race radio’s etc

“He could put fear into you but you can’t do that with the young generation. They’re more aware, they’re want to know why and understand. It’s a bit of a dynamic and there are different ways to put that pressure on without yelling. Last year I was at the Tour of Wallonie with Marco Pinotti and Dylan Teuns was riding for GC, and he had the lead already. A group of 17 riders went up the road and had 45 seconds. Marco got on the radio and said ‘guys there’s a group of 17 riders up the road with 45 seconds, and I think we need to start riding’. I grabbed the radio, and shouted ‘Marco, you if you need to tell them that it’s time to ride now, then they shouldn’t be professional’. I looked down, thinking it was the DS radio but saw that it was the rider radio and the gap closed within three kilometres.”

All of the points you highlight above I think fit into that comment. It has nothing to do with Race Radios

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