The UCI, race radios and the crabs in the pot

Mike Creed (Optum) following stage one of the Merco Cycling Classic.

Mike Creed (Optum) following stage one of the Merco Cycling Classic. (Image credit: Wil Matthews)

Upon hearing the latest about the new breakaway league, which sounds like a great plot line for a WWE story, I was a bit annoyed at myself for my own ignorance to the details of the teams' grievances regarding revenue sharing.

But I was mostly annoyed about the constant moaning with regards to the radio debate. So, I just want to speak briefly on what I believe to be a debate that came a bit too late for anyone to take seriously.

Over the past two years rules have been arbitrarily applied by the UCI without vote or input and subsequently ignored by riders, teams and fans. But none of those rules created ruffle much as the radio ruling. Why?

To be clear, I would like radios to return to racing. Not just pro tour races, but all races.

The fact the WorldTour teams only fought for radios at their races and not 1.1, 2.1 or lower shows how removed they feel from the rest of the sport.

I might be more passionate about the radio debate and support the WorldTour teams if they were including the whole of the sport, but they're not. In general, when someone says "I just want what's fair", what they really mean is: "I want what's best for me".

This makes them no better than the people they have a grievance with.

NRC races in the US are often (not always) lower budget affairs. And being that, they can only afford so many course marshals or cops to block the course. And in most of those races you only have 1 team car, so if you have a man in a breakaway and the car is behind the break you have no way of communicating a major event in the field, e.g. multiple team flats, crashes requiring bike changes or the need for rain clothing.

The items I just listed is not exciting racing. It's real chaos that is preventable and possibly dangerous.

If you want exciting racing on two wheels, watch motocross or Moto GP.

Bike racing is not a endless event of dynamics. It's a subtle cloak and dagger series of conservation and protection, punctuated by a brief flurry of explosion.

Now, I realize there are exceptions to that last statement. Races like Roubaix, and Flanders and a handful of stage races are amazing to watch for hours. And in the pack, any high level race is almost always a constant series of skillful movements and stress. But in general that stress and skill set doesn't translate to TV. Claiming a radio ban will lead to exciting racing is totally correct but what it will certainly do is take away some stress from team mechanics that don't have to worry about charging the radios.

Now, why did the radio debate live on? Because it made the directors' jobs harder. They essentially become bike chauffeurs, finding small talk with the mechanic or something to listen to besides local French radio.

Team managers or owners didn't speak up when the accountability to conform to arbitrary rules fall on the rider or manufacturers, the lowest people in the cycling totem poll.

Rule: "Two same size wheels please."
Team response: "Fine more room in the truck anyway."

Rule: "Bike has to be double triangle."
Team response: "Sure fine, I'll tell my sponsor"

Rule: "Seat has to be 5cm behind the bottom bracket."
Team response: "Fine, we have wrenches"

Rule: "Time trial reach can't be more than 75cm
Team response; "Oh.. like Obree? We're not like that crackpot"

Rule: "No more radios"
Team response: "WHATTTT!!!! FASCIST!"

Most of the rules listed have ways around them, which makes them not only silly but poorly thought out. But no radios means 'no' radios. And directors become chauffeurs. When the UCI started doing bike fits, convenient as it is, and the teams didn't fight for their rights, that was the first step (in my generation) of the teams surrendering their right to have any say.

I hope changes do come. I want to race with a radio, I want to do my own bike fit, I want the lightest bike my team can give me, and I want a time trial bike that looks like a spaceship.

I don't want to be held down by one mans interpretation of tradition. Doug Stanhope said "tradition is the baggage of dead men."

Yes, it's unfair to pull out a quote out of context to support your argument. But it's no worse then having someone from the mountain top tell you to push your saddle back.

Let's not fool ourselves in that bike racing was more exciting in yesteryear. If we want more exciting racing, lets consider six mans teams, shorter more dynamic courses, on live video feed, team radio feed and my own personal idea, rocket propelled bikes. And please, WorldTour brass, don't forget about us. Otherwise we're just crabs in a pot.

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Follow veteran professional Michael Creed as he embarks on the 2011 season with the US-based Continental squad Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth.

Creed has been a professional since 2000, races on both road and track (where he's a multi-time national champion), and has ridden for teams such as Prime Alliance, US Postal Service, Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team, Team TIAA-CREF, Team Slipstream, Rock Racing and Team Type 1.

The 30-year-old American pro has a wealth of experience, a keen sense of humour and will be providing insight into a season in which he hopes to bounce back from a few rocky years in the US peloton.