Despite the topic of race radios being in a period of détente, a temporary casualty of the politics in pro cycling, the issue continues to make its presence felt within the professional road peleton.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:37 PM

Simply put, the radio issue isn't one that will go away soon, though it should. At least if you listen to the riders.

Because
as many observers have noted there isn't much conclusive proof of any
race having being decided because riders have a telecommunications link
to their overly animated overlords in the team car.

The latest
missive on race radios comes from someone at the pointy end of the
debate, Canadian pro Andrew Randell, who rides for the Steve Bauer led
Pro Continental team, Spider Tech - C10.

Randell took the time to
write an impassioned and thoughtful note detailing his experience at
the USA Pro Cycling Challenge back in August, where he and a number of
other riders were involved in a serious crash.

Randell along with
Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale), Davide Frattini (UnitedHealthcare),
Daniele Callegarin (Team Type 1) and Sergio Hernandez (Jelly Belly) all
went down after a collision with a cattle guard.

Randell,
Callegarin, and Hernandez were all taken to hospital with a variety of
fractures, lacerations concussion and the usual lost bit of bark.
Randell himself emerged from the incident with a fractured back.

That's
the short version. The long version is a more interesting plea for
sanity from someone directly affected by the machinations of the UCI and
their broadcast overlords. Read it and tell me if you think a legitimate
advance in technology should be refused.

To the professional cycling community:


On
Wednesday, August 24th, at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado,
USA during the Queen stage of the race a horrible crash happened at a
cattle guard. Myself and two other riders were hospitalized. There was
no warning that we were approaching the cattle guard. The crash occurred
because one of the riders put his front wheel into the space separating
the two sides of the cattle guard: his speed instantaneously changed
from 55km/h to zero, his front wheel shattering, sending him face-first
into the road. I hit him, shearing my fork in two, and myself crashing
into the road to shatter my helmet and fracture my back.

Speaking
with people the following day they said that this particular cattle
guard was in very bad shape: simply walking across it had been
difficult. The gap between the two grids (into which Callegarin put his
wheel) that made up the cattle guard was particularly wide and the rods
themselves were triangular in shape and very rough. The riders should
have been warned about its dangerous nature. Had we racers had enough
forewarning to prepare ourselves, and space out for the cattle guard,
this accident could have been avoided.

Commissaires and race
officials ahead of the race may have realised the dangerous nature of
the cattle guard, but how were they to warn us? At race speed the sudden
warning shout of "cattle guard" at the head of the peloton came too
close to the obstacle to change our safety, but use of race radios could
have prevented, or at least drastically reduced, the likelihood of this
incident. However, use of race radios is currently being phased out by
the UCI.

Other means of warning, such as marking the cattle guard
with caution notices, may not be seen by riders in the heat of the
race, and foreign riders might anyway not read English signage. In
addition, as was the case at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge (a
well-organised and successful event), race organisers are not perfect,
they can make mistakes. And, races happen on public roads where
conditions change all the time: there have been situations involving
sabotage, vehicles on course, protests, changing road conditions (in the
Tour of Utah a tree fell across the road in the time it took two groups
to pass through the same point on a descent). The race radio is without
doubt the most efficient means by which to warn riders of approaching
obstacles and dangers, and the only means by which to communicate with
riders in real time.

The UCI asserts that the use of race radios
renders racing boring, overly calculated and robot-like. This year's
exciting Tour de France, where the use of race radios was still allowed,
proves that the UCI assertion is utterly false and without foundation.

Cycling
trade teams have a vested interest in the safety of their athletes.
They are developing them and investing in them as the future of their
racing programs. The lack of communication in racing endangers this
investment. Who is liable for the lost return when an athlete is
seriously injured in an incident that could have been avoided? The trade
teams need to unanimously support the return of race radios in order to
improve the safety of their athletes.

The faulty and unfounded
argument by the UCI regarding race radios is endangering the well-being,
and perhaps even the lives, of riders around the world. Cycling is a
professional sport conducted under varying road conditions.
Communication therefore is vital to the safety of the riders, and we
professional riders must forthwith and unanimously demand that the UCI
reverse its position on the use of race radios at all levels of racing.
Cyclists are the heart of cycling and we must assert our influence on
the sport to ensure our well-being.

Andrew Randell