Charly Wegelius’ Giro blog: Radio Ga Ga

Garmin-Sharp sports director Charly Wegelius is blogging for Cycling Weekly from the 2013 Giro d’Italia

The “office” where I spend my working days is dominated by radios. Everybody knows that the riders race with communication earpieces, but these are not the only radio lines in my car.

By far the most important radio sits in the glove compartment. This is the famous “radio corsa”. In many ways it is like the rope a deep sea diver clings to, linking him to the boat waiting above.

Without “radio corsa” I am totally lost in the race, floating around like a ship with no sails. All crucial information is relayed about the race, breakaways, dangerous points, and even reprimands from the judges are communicated to the Sports Directors.

On a couple of occasions, in smaller races, I have had a faulty radio in the car, and the feeling of being cut off is really bizarre. You truly have no idea of what is happening in the race, or to your riders.

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The voice of the speaker of race radio becomes like a close friend. His voice describes the race in minute detail day after day, and you can even feel from the tone of his voice when the races is entering into a crucial or dangerous faze.

I met the man in question at a hotel, but long before I could identify his face I could pick his voice out of a crowd, so familiar was I with his speech.

Nowadays race information on the Giro is given first in Italian, then English, and finally French.

This may seem a small detail, but for the world of cycling this is a sign of the massive shift there has been over the last years towards the Anglo Saxon culture.

There are probably more Sports Directors in the race who are fluent in English than in French.

Compare this to my early days at the Giro as a rider when I struggled to find someone to speak English to and my mother complained that my English was getting “rusty”, and you begin to understand how the peloton has changed.

The second radio in the car links me to the second team car, which travels behind us.

This is another crucial line of communication. I can consult with the other DS about tactics or plans for the race. If we have a rider in a break, he moves up to support the rider, and through this radio can tell me how it is going, and give me vital information on the roads that the riders in the pack will come across.

The range of this radio is limited, and it can frustrating trying to raise the DS in the break that is 10 minutes up the road in an area with no cellular coverage.

A third radio is used to speak to the Masseurs at the finish line or the bus driver.

They can give me info on how the riders get from the line to the bus, which is often no easy task, especially for tired bike riders.

They can also inform me if we have a rider called for doping control or podium. This helps to avoid a rider unknowingly leaving the finish area when he is needed.

The same radio is used to give us info on where the masseurs will stand in the feed zone, which in the case of high winds or technical roads can save the riders a lot of stress.

Lastly, but not least, is the famous rider radio. I use this to pass info to the riders and give instructions. It has been debated a lot lately, but I doubt it makes as much influence as people may think.

These radios are very temperamental, and the peloton is not an easy place to hold a conversation.

The fans, helicopters, and wind often make it very hard to understand the riders. I have lost count of how many times a rider has angrily told me he wanted a rain jacket, and not a bidon, as I have sped up to the bunch fully convinced that I have understood their requests.

Most of the crucial info is given in the bus, also because it can happen that other teams can hear what I am saying. There are 22 teams in the race, and the lines are busy.

The other day, Luca Scinto [DS at Vini Fantini] came and told me that they could hear none of their riders, but that he could hear everything I say. Luckily he can’t speak a word of English, but still I try to keep things simple off the radio.

What is the biggest challenge of all this? Making sure you pick the right microphone! No rider in a Giro stage wants to hear me ordering pizza from a masseur at the feed zone…