Tensions between the professional teams and the UCI over the ban on team/rider radio communications reached new heights today as the riders of the Trofeo Palma Mallorca defied the governing body's rules and wore their race radios during the race.
The UCI commissaires refused to officiate the race and even threatened to cancel the event. The race did eventually go on without the UCI officials, and Garmin-Cervélo's victory by Tyler Farrar over Marcel Kittel (Skil-Shimano) and Francisco Ventoso (Movistar) will not be entered into the UCI's record books.
Farrar and his team manager Jonathan Vaughters said that the sacrifice of the result is worth it to make the point to the UCI that riders opinions should be respected.
"We just want to make a point so the UCI will sit down and come up with a mutually beneficial solution to this," said Vaughters. "It's not that we're trying to wreck races. We're going to race - as we did today. We had a great race, there just weren't any UCI commissaires there, and that wasn't our decision."
"I think today was an important moment in cycling," Farrar said. "I've said all along that I feel race radios are important, not only tactically but also for safety reasons. However, just as important is the riders and teams standing up for themselves and having their voices heard. We are the ones who make this sport and we deserve to have a say in the direction it takes."
Vaughters agreed, saying, "We're the team that's making the biggest sacrifice in this because we won the race - Tyler was a worthy winner today - I consider it a win in my book. This is something that has to happen. The teams are not represented appropriately in the governance of cycling.
"That has to change if we want to become a truly professional sport."
Vaughters is also president of the teams association, the AIGCP, which announced today that today's stand-off will not be repeated for the rest of the Challenge Mallorca events.
"The UCI threatened the organisers and teams to cancel the race, would the teams continue to use radio communication. Letting common sense prevail and out of respect for the organizer, sponsors and especially the fans of the Challenge Mallorca, the AIGCP will ask that all teams remove the radios for the remainder of Challenge Mallorca."
But Vaughters said that while the protests will not continue in Mallorca, there are other venues where they can and will take similar action should the UCI not listen to their demands and open a dialogue about the issue.
"There are plenty of 1.HC races where we could take action. The point is, we did it in a way that we felt was the most productive and least damaging to cycling. It sends a signal that all the riders wanted to do this, all the team directors participated: even Cofidis [whose manager Eric Boyer had supported the radio ban -ed.] participated.
"I think it sends a strong signal of the unity of the teams at this point in time, the unity and strength of the AIGCP. We just want to sit down with the UCI and come to a mutually beneficial solution to this."
The more broader concern for Vaughters and the rest of the teams and riders is the lack of representation in the sport when the rules are enacted.
"We were not part of the decision [to ban radios], we had no vote in the UCI management or road committee when that was put through. Therefore it is a decision about something that affects our work that's being imposed on us without any voting capacity on our part.
"Most great nations or even publicly owned companies have systems that represent different stakeholders. Perhaps the UCI board of directors should be composed on representative from riders, organizers, and teams," Vaughters suggested, "or at least the wing of the UCI that governs the professional leg of the sport."
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