Race radios for riders will be banned in nearly all USA Cycling road and track races going forward. The USCF Board of Trustees met this week and on Monday evening amended the rule regarding radios in response to a request from the UCI.
In 2010, race radios will only be allowed for use by teams and riders in UCI Category HC or Category 1 races in the U.S., per UCI regulations. Basically this means radios will only be allowed at the Amgen Tour of California, the Tour of Missouri and the Philadelphia International Classic for men, and the Liberty Classic for women.
USA Cycling rule 1N6, which takes effect immediately, now reads:
“Riders may not use radios, telephones, or other such communication devices. No earpieces may be worn. Audio playback devices are expressly forbidden.”
“I would like to thank the USCF Trustees for moving quickly in response to the request we received from the UCI,” said USA Cycling CEO Steve Johnson. “Although I think the jury is still out regarding the future of radios in our sport, given the current direction being set by the UCI indicating their intent to phase out radio usage across the board, we all agreed that it was important to make this adjustment now rather than later in the season.”
Reaction from riders was mixed.
“From the safety standpoint it could be bad, but for the developmental standpoint it could be good,” said Kelly Benefit Strategies rider Andy Bajadali. “It will teach younger riders how to read races, and I think that’s the point. A team like mine, with a good team director, it was to our advantage to have a race radio program, we were very dialed in and made very few mistakes. There’s a lot of depth on our team, guys know how to race, so I think this will be an advantage to deeper teams with older guys and more experienced guys. I’ve been in races where radio makes things safer — maybe you’re overseas and it’s sketchy, or there’s a maniac driving on course, and in that aspect it is good. I’ve been in a lot of sketchy races where something bad could have gone wrong, and was avoided because of race radios, and I think they will find that out — hopefully no one has to be seriously hurt for them to realize that. I think you always want to see progress, and this seems like a step backwards. Maybe soon we’ll all be riding 20-pound steel bikes, Eddy Merckx style.”
Bissell’s Ben Jacques-Maynes echoed Bajadali’s sentiments on safety.
“Knowing your guy has a flat and is on the side of road, or of some hazards on the road, that there is an ambulance coming the other way — which happens all the time — that is useful information that we honestly need, and race radios provide that,” he said.
However, he said the quality of racing could actually improve because of the ban.
“Teams where communication is already an issue might suffer, but the guys on the big teams already have team captains, the guys have marching orders, and races are usually run according to plan,” he said. “If you look at the stage they ran at the Tour de France last year without radios, it was super controlled, even more so than normal. I don’t necessarily think it’s going to all of a sudden be wild free-for alls and 10-minute breaks. People will have to be smart and think on their feet, but most of the pro peloton is capable of that. I think racing will look pretty the same. There might be a few guys asking, ‘What just happened?’ but that’s about it.”
Neal Rogers contributed to this report.