Eric Boyer, the general manager of the Cofidis team, has proposed new ideas in the discussion over the banning of radio communication at UCI races. The suppression of race radio has caused a stir at the first 2011 Cat 1 and HC events, with many teams against the new UCI rules for safety reasons. However supporters argue that race scenarios will likely be more open without the earpieces, creating greater spectacle for the fans.
"I think we have to find a compromise," Boyer told Cyclingnews on Thursday. "I am against race radios, but I also know that it is an important tool: it enables us to give information to the riders without having to drive up to them inside the peloton. A compromise would be to continue to enable the sports directors to do that, but only for a limited number of his riders, i.e. three out of nine, for example.
"These riders would be chosen pre-stage depending on the race route, and they would relay the information to their team-mates. The riders of a team would have to race closer inside the peloton to share this information and decide how to use it best in any given race situation."
The compromise would generate greater communication between the riders of a team, and allow for "collective decision-making and greater cohesion within the team," according to the Frenchman.
Rider security and road safety, common arguments of those that support race radios, could be upheld by modern technology, according to Boyer. "I think we could substitute the announcement of dangerous places on the parcours by small GPS screens mounted on the handlebars. The day's race route would be programmed in there, and one could see where the difficult sections are: the roundabouts, railroad crossings, dangerous curves etc."
Still, Boyer admitted that this could also be a risk factor, distracting the riders' attention and possibly causing them to crash. "There is never a perfect solution; unfortunately, there will always be negative side effects to any given solution," he acknowledged.
Disagreeing with team policy
The banning of race radios has caused a stir at the first 2011 races, even making some teams protest at sign-ins. Boyer disagrees with that approach, and signalled that his team would not take part in any protest or strike. "I think we should not take the race organisers hostage.
The new rule is not their fault. We have to decide what to do outside of the races."
To him, however, the banning of race radios would be beneficial in many regards, also allowing riders to race more freely. "You see, I really get the impression that some sports directors patronise their riders excessively. Through race radios, people like Johan Bruyneel refuse that their riders take their own decisions. They just have to obey to the director's orders, end of story. The riders' autonomy or responsibility is completely erased, all they have to do is pedal," Boyer added, notably annoyed with his colleague's approach.
"That is what I see and hear from some of them, especially Johan Bruyneel. If the riders of those teams want to let themselves be ruled like that and obey to orders, that's their problem. But that's not my vision of cycling. The riders are the ones who suffer, it's their heart-rates that are up to 185 or 190 bpm, and we just sit in the cars. There has to a fair communication. The riders have to take initiatives in races depending on what their sensations are and the level of pain in their legs," he added, saying that this autonomy was part of what created legendary cyclists in the past.
"As a director, you have to give your riders the chance to express themselves, and take decisions together. Since the introduction of earpieces, riders have been given less freedom, so they have stopped developing their tactical senses."