The weekend saw two races held without race radios. Here’s a quick review of the issues.
It matters more than ever in Belgium as positioning and tactics are vital, riders dropping back to the team car to pick up food or fix a mechanical can’t alert their team. As a result, team riders use a lot of energy. Adam Blythe, Philippe Gilbert’s “bodyguard” at Omega Pharma-Lotto told Het Nieuwsblad that dropping back to return rain jackets and gloves or fetch water bottles cost plenty of energy. Similarly when Vacansoleil’s Stijn Devolder got his shifters jammed with sand he couldn’t warn his team, both the car and his team mates. Unsure of a speedy bike change, the Belgian champ soldiered on for 30km with a faulty bike. It was a factor that explained why the bunch was shredded with 70km remaining in the Het Nieuwsblad, team mates got shelled out earlier. Tom Boonen was quoted as saying “we really didn’t know anything”. Fans were delighted.
The pre-race threat of a strike by the riders was lifted but nothing is resolved. The issue has simply been put on hold and there will be talks on the eve of Paris-Nice. The French stage race is part of the World Tour where race radios can be used.
Rabobank went retro with a roof-mounted megaphone on Saturday. If the team won on Saturday, the loud hailer didn’t have much effect with Langeveld saying he couldn’t hear things over the traffic and crowds.
Attk @ car 4 d larb?
There’s talk of hiding mobile phone technology in a bike computer. If voice comms are too obvious, Sportwereld claims there are rumours of HTC and Garmin adapting units to include SMS messages. Maybe you want to file this next to tales of electronic bikes. The idea of receiving a message, say, to attack on the Carrefour de l’Arbre section of cobbles, “Attk @ car4 d larb” sounds fanciful. Especially as the rules would forbid this. Here’s UCI rule 2.2.024, which applies to every race except the World Tour, Women’s World Cup and time trials:
the use of radio links or other remote means of communication by or with the riders, as well as the possession of any equipment that can be used in this manner, during an event is prohibited.
TV spectators had a treat, especially on Saturday. Was it the lack of radios? You can’t isolate one factor, after all the first classic of the year is always an open affair and it’s always exciting to watch racing in Flanders. But some tactical factors suggest the absence of radios means teams are less organised and riders are left to themselves.
If fans might be happy, riders have a job to do and there have been several complaints about the convoy of team cars being wild as team managers rush to help their riders, turning the back of the race into a frantic car rally. As such many riders and teams – but not all – want the radios for safety reasons.
The politics rumbles on. I’ve said the pro radio team needs to improve its campaign to get fans and the media on board. This will be even more so after a great weekend of racing where many fans were delighted by lively racing.