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Team directors to fight UCI radio ban

Unless the UCI backtracks at a meeting with team directors on Friday in Switzerland, race radio communication between riders and their team cars will be banned this season in every road race except the 27 events of the new UCI WorldTour.

Rabobank's Grischa Niermann chose an unusual way to protest a radio ban during a stage of the 2009 Tour de France.
Rabobank's Grischa Niermann chose an unusual way to protest a radio ban during a stage of the 2009 Tour de France.

The meeting was originally scheduled for December 1, but snow and freezing weather closed Geneva Airport and caused a five-week postponement, so the 2011 racing season is about to start without final agreement on the new UCI ruling.

Speaking to VeloNews, Garmin-Cervélo team manager Jonathan Vaughters, who’s also president of the AIGCP (Association International des Groupes Cyclistes Professionels), said, “I don’t know what’s gonna come out of that meeting, whether the directeurs sportifs will be given honest input … or whether it’s gonna be more, ‘this is the way the rules are.’ We’ll have to see what’s the outcome of that meeting before we can see our options going forward.”

The AIGCP is being represented at Friday’s meeting by board member Johan Bruyneel of Team RadioShack, while Team Katusha sports director Serge Parsani is also attending. Vaughters said the meeting will focus on the modified UCI regulation 2.2.024, the first part of which states:

“During the following races:
• world championships
• national championships
• elite men, class HC, 1 and 2 events and events in the national calendar
• elite women, class 1 and 2 events and events in the national calendar
• under-23 men
• junior men
• junior women

the use of radio links or other means of remote communication with the riders is not permitted.”

Through 2010, in-race radios were already banned for juniors, U23s, national calendar events and the world championship road races (including those for elite men and women), but the new version adds every event on the UCI’s five continental calendars — which include American HC races like the Amgen Tour of California and TD Bank International Championship (in Philadelphia), and European HC races like the Critérium International, Giro del Trentino, Paris-Tours and Milan-Turin.

Vaughters said that when the AIGCP conducted a poll at its last meeting, in Paris on October 18, the day before the 2011 Tour de France presentation, the team directors present voted 18-2 to keep the radios in all international professional races. This almost unanimous position against the UCI ruling comes at a time when the AIGCP has become a much stronger force in cycling politics than it was when the UCI started phasing out radio use several years ago.

“I think the UCI management committee decided on this (extension of the radio ban) a year and a bit ago, and at that point in time the AIGCP was scattered all over the place,” said Vaughters, who moved into the presidency two years ago. “It’s taken quite a while to put it back together into a real cohesive unit post the 2008 Paris-Nice.” (At that time, when Paris-Nice (and Tour de France) organizer ASO was in power struggle with the UCI over team selection for its events, several teams pulled out of the AIGCP because of its alleged ineffectiveness.

“I think the AIGCP is a strong and functional unit right now,” Vaughters concluded, “and I think this radio thing is the first test of the new AIGCP.”

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