Next salvo in the radio wars: Riders to use earpieces next week

MILAN (AFP) — As the UCI dug in its heels Friday over the radio ban, it was revealed that the peloton aims to defy UCI orders by wearing the radio-earpieces during the Harelbeke GP E3 on March 26, the Coppi-Bartali international cycling week on March 22-26 and the Criterium International on March 26-27.

MILAN (AFP) — As the UCI dug in its heels Friday over the radio ban, at least some members of the peloton aim to defy UCI orders by wearing the radio-earpieces during the Harelbeke GP E3 on March 26, the Coppi-Bartali international cycling week on March 22-26 and the Criterium International on March 26-27. VeloNews reported on those plans last week.

Quick Step team director Patrick Lefevere said: “It’s the riders themselves who have taken this decision, not the teams. They’re just fed up at not being listened to by the UCI, which has taken a unanimous decision.”

UCI president Pat McQuaid replied in an open letter that the issue had now become a power struggle between the sport’s governing body and its main protagonists, some of whom he claims are hoping to launch a breakaway series.

“The UCI is convinced that what’s really at stake here is not radios, but power and control,” said the Irishman.

“The UCI is well aware of proposed moves by some team managers to establish a private league, the World Cycling Tour, which excludes the UCI.”

McQuaid said the UCI’s decision came after television bosses warned the continued use of radios would kill a sport which already suffers from dwindling interest by the television companies.

“In 2008, after a top level meeting with bosses at France televisions, the biggest broadcaster of bike races, I was told the continued radio use in cycling would lead to a reduction in broadcasting hours,” said McQuaid.

“After this worrying conversation, I discussed the issue with other media, who all came back with similar opinions.

“There is already no cycling broadcast on German television, which is largely down to doping scandals. But if the final product was interesting enough to attract the viewers, ARD and ZDF (channels) would not have stopped showing cycling.”

McQuaid reiterated Friday the “general lack of interest” in the issue when the UCI organized a series of round table discussions on radio-earpieces in 2008 and 2009.

Now the ban is in place, he believes riders are coming under pressure from their teams to oppose the ban. He also criticized the peloton’s representatives for being far less proactive when it came to the serious matter of doping.

“Although nothing’s changed, we see today that 90 percent of the peloton believes we just can’t do without radio-earpieces,” said McQuaid.

“The UCI can only take note of this extremely surprising change of tack. What’s happened in the peloton? Have the riders come under pressure? Are they even free to speak their minds?”

He added: “Despite the remarkable progress we’ve made in anti-doping matters, public opinion believes that we constantly operate in an environment of suspicion and tension.

“I have never heard the AIGCP, or any other cyclists’ representative body, react with such venom when it comes to the doping scandals which sully our sport.”