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USAC’s Petty on radio ban: “Time will tell”

USA Cycling’s Chief Operating Officer, Sean Petty, has had a front-row seat for the UCI’s race radio discussions over the past two years as a member of the seven-member UCI road commission. Petty told VeloNews Wednesday that only time will tell whether the governing body’s recent race radio ban is a good thing for American racing.

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The Future? Riders relied on shouted instructions during a one-stage radio ban at last year's Tour.

“The race discussion seemed to be building more momentum recently, and the Tour de France experiment (for a stage without radios) was a factor in all this,” Petty said. “But we at USA Cycling weren’t expecting to get notice from the UCI about our national calendar. At the end of the day, the UCI made their decision on the phasing out of radios. We received a letter, as did every other national federation, where the UCI requested that radios be banned from national races.”

Since radios were banned from UCI Category 2 races such as the Univest Grand Prix, as well as all National Racing Calendar events, Petty said it only made sense to continue that legislation across all USA Cycling events.

“We didn’t want radios to be legal one weekend, then illegal the next,” he said.

The notable exceptions in the United States where radios will be allowed are UCI HC and UCI Cat. 1 races — the Amgen Tour of California, the Tour of Missouri and the Philadelphia International Classic for men, and the Liberty Classic for women.

Petty said the philosophy of banning radios to help riders learn to think on their feet — or their saddles — makes sense. “We banned radios from under-23 events a couple years ago, and that’s worked well,” he said.

Most riders do not disagree with this point, but many have voiced concerns over safety with an expected lack of information. Petty said the absence of radios does not necessarily put riders in danger.

“The UCI did a lengthy study, and got input from teams and riders around the world. Basically the question was, ‘have there been fewer accidents with the advent of the radio?’ The answer was no,” he said.

The UCI road commission did discuss a few alternatives, such as a one-way radio to all riders direct from radio tour, which could transmit safety information without tactical advice from directors.

The seven-man UCI road commission consists of four appointed positions, and includes Irish cycling legend Sean Kelly. The other three are: a representative from the group of race organizers; a representative from the riders, currently Cedric Vasseur; and a representative from the team managers, currently John Lelangue.

The road commission makes recommendations to the UCI management committee, which ultimately makes or modifies the rules.

“It should make racing somewhat more exciting,” said Petty. “We’ll see some differences this year across the board — taking radios out of worlds, for example. It will definitely be a different style of racing, no doubt.”

As for racing in America, Petty said, “we will have to see what the feedback is from riders, promoters, everyone involved. And time will tell, to be honest.”

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