The debate over the race radio ban heats up as the race director at the Vuelta a Murcia blamed the absence of race radio for several crashes during the three-stage race in Spain.
Ruben Plaza (Movistar) broke his tibia and will undergo surgery this week after crashing in Saturday’s mountain stage on the descent off the Collado Bermejo climb.
Two others crashed on the narrow, twisting descent, including Juan Mauricio Soler (Movistar) and Mikel Landa (Euskatel-Euskadi), in a desperate chase to try to regain contact with the attacking Alberto Contador, who eventually won the stage and the overall.
Vuelta race director Paco Guzmán, writing on the Spanish website www.biciciclismo.com, said the crashes overshadowed the high-profile victory of Contador.
“From our small ‘vuelta’ we want to make a battle cry, a call for security. I believe that the ‘pinganillo’ (ear-pieces) ought to return to all the races,” Guzmán wrote. “I am sure that if the information that their rivals were close that Rubén, Mikel and Mauricio would have taken less risks and the Vuelta a Murcia would have been a complete success.”
Guzmán’s comments are significant because he marks one of the first race organizers to join many teams and riders in their desire to have race radios in elite level professional events.
Saxo Bank sport director Bjarne Riis also lashed out at the radio ban, citing the same crashes off the Collado Bermejo as what he says is proof that the sport is risking too much in terms of security by phasing out the two-way race communication.
“Today’s race showed just how dangerous it is to race without radios,” Riis told VeloNews on Saturday. “A Movistar rider crashed on the descent. He was screaming at us because he was off the road and no one saw him. I was asking the mechanic if we had a phone number for Movistar. We couldn’t stop because we had Contador on the attack. If he had a race radio, he could call for help and get taken care of.”
Riis was one of three team directors who met with UCI president Pat McQuaid last week to discuss the radio ban. After the meeting the UCI announced that the ban would continue but that it would continue to evaluate its effect on race safety.