13 July, 2009

We're hoping for No Earpieces Tuesday

Race radios have been a fixture in pro racing for the past decade or so. It's an innovation thanks to Motorola's sponsorship of cycling. They started providing radios to the team in 1990 or 1991 and as they got smaller, and the fruits of the change could be seen, more teams wanted it. As an observer, they seem to have changed racing. It's much harder for riders to benefit from confusion. Chase-downs of small breakaways seem to have become more successful. There was always an art to the chase, but now it is really well-defined. Maybe more importantly, stages in the mountains don't break up the same way, and when they do, they can be more decisive.

While the racing is different with the radios, I'm excited about seeing two stages radio-free at the Tour. It allows for riders with race-reading skills to shine.

The team directors are complaining because they claim the radios make racing safer. I'm not sure how true that claim is, but it's a macguffin. The real reason they want the radios is for better control of the racing, for greater assurance that the result is what they want. The Tour has actually met this objection by making a race channel available to all where they can get safety information. Though once they allow this, I would think the riders could secretly tune into their team's channel. Hope the Tour is threatening time penalties to the cheats.

American critics are playing the anti-French card, as the first of the two radio-free days is tomorrow, Bastille Day, and French riders are expected to go all-out to win on Bastille day. They figure attackers will benefit from the ban. I don't know if that many French riders really go for it. Yes, we do typically see long attacks that include French riders on Bastille Day, but then again, we see French riders in long breaks just about every day. I think there are 45 French racers in the Tour, more than any other nationality, so it shouldn't be surprising that we see French riders in just about every move.

No radios on stage 10 could be good because it will be interesting to see how the riders do without their directors yelling in their ears a day after a rest day, on a stage that while not hilly, isn't flat either. The other stage where there are supposed to be no radios, Stage 13, is mountainous, so you have both the hex of 13 and the hard stage to see how well racers think for themselves.

1 comment:

Marc Bertucco said...

With or without, racing is not more or less exciting. It's just different. So a breakaway has more of a chance of success without team directors riding herd on all that they see...but is it any more exciting seeing a group of 3-6 riders sprint it out for the win, than a pack of 20-50 riders going for the win?