British Cycling has adopted the UCI’s ruling banning race radios, which means they will not be allowed at Premier Calendar events.
The UCI ban means earpiece radios cannot be used in races ranked 1.2 and 2.2 and below. That includes all Premier Calendar races and the 1.2-ranked East Midlands Cicle Classic.
However, radios will be allowed at the Tour of Britain and Tour of Ireland, which are ranked 2.1. Radios were already banned from the Tour Series criteriums. The ban will also apply to the elite National Road Race Championship in June.
John Herety, the manager of the Rapha Condor Sharp team, also sits on British Cycling’s road commission panel. He disagrees with the UCI’s decision to phase out the use of radios, but agreed that British Cycling had to adopt the world governing body’s rule.
“I don’t agree with the UCI decision at all, I think it’s wrong, but I do agree that if it’s the rule, BC had to adopt it,” he said. “I don’t really understand the motivation for the decision. If it is because racing has become predictable or boring, then why are they allowing radios in ProTour events, which are the ones that are televised? It doesn’t make sense.”
Herety said the radio ban would have implications for races on the road in Britain and his team would have to rethink its tactics.
“It may make racing more negative, because no one will want to let anyone get away. It’ll put a lot more pressure on race organisers because they will have to have blackboards and give accurate time gaps. It only takes six kilometres of soft pedalling for a three-minute gap to open, so you may get some unusual winners of the races. Does that make it more exciting? I don’t know.
“A team like ours has always had a game plan. We sit down and talk about the number of different scenarios and you take them all into account. Radios would be used to reiterate what we’ve already said in the meeting, or to change things if they’re not going to plan.
“The idea that a manager is in the car dictating to the riders over the radio is totally false. It just doesn’t work like that. What it will mean is that you’ll have to go through things in a lot more detail. The riders look at the maps and take in the important information but to think they can retain every single detail is ludicrous.”
Herety added that Rapha Condor Sharp would use race radios in the Tour of Britain and other events where they are permitted.
“Personally I think junior riders should be able to use them because you can help them learn as they race. If you’re a football coach you can shout from the touchline and get people to recognise their mistakes as they make them and put things right, but in a bike race you can’t do that. You have to wait for the race to finish, then wait for the next race to start before they can do anything about it.”
Rob Hayles of Endura Racing said his team had not bought a set of radios, because they knew the ban was coming. “It saves us about three grand and a trip to Belgium to get them sorted so they work with the unit in the team car,” he said.
“I think it’ll make things more interesting. Or less interesting. Who knows?
“Last year [at Halfords] our radios didn’t work nearly all year, so we pretty much rode off our instincts anyway. We had them working fine in the car park and then when you get out on the road they packed up, so they could be a bit of a nightmare. The year before it was just me and Tom Southam in the team, and we communicated by telepathy.
“It’s not as if we’re telling each other what to do through the race, but it can be handy if you have a puncture. Or if you are in a break and you come across a hazard, like a parked car, you can have a word over the radio to the guys in the bunch behind. But if there’s a 90-degree turn and everyone gets the order to sprint into the corner it can add to the danger.
“From my perspective it’s up to the riders. They need to learn how to race, not just be told, but to be honest, there’s not too many directors in the domestic convoy who know what to do with radios anyway. They’re only as good as the information you’re getting.
“It’ll change the racing, but in what way, who knows? Will it allow breaks to form and get away. or will everything get shut down.”
THE MEN IN BLACK
Potentially adding to the confusion in British races is the number of teams that will be wearing predominantly black kits.
Rapha Condor Sharp have been black for a number of years, but Motorpoint’s black with orange sleeves and Endura Racing’s black with green flashes are new additions to the bunch. Sigma Sport’s kit is also black with red.
Hayles said: “We considered having a white kit for the summer but the UCI won’t let us have two kits. We weren’t prepared to go all-white from the outset because you go through so much kit in the bad weather. So we’re all going to be looking out for little bits of orange or pink or green aren’t we?”